LONDON, England ● David Beckham’s dream of playing in the Olympics he helped secure for his hometown came to an end on Thursday after he was left out of Great Britain’s squad for the Games.
In a surprise announcement, Beckham confirmed he had not made the final 18-man squad as one of coach Stuart Pearce’s three over-age players for the London sports extravaganza.
Pearce had travelled to the United States to assess Beckham’s form for the Los Angeles Galaxy last week before making his decision.
“Everyone knows how much playing for my country has always meant to me,” Beckham said in a statement. “So I would have been honored to have been part of this unique Team GB squad.
“Naturally I am very disappointed, but there will be no bigger supporter of the team than me. And like everyone, I will be hoping they can win the gold.
“As a Londoner I was really proud to have played a small part in bringing the Olympics to my home town … and I can’t wait for the Games to begin and will enjoy every moment along with the rest of Great Britain.”
British media reports said the three over-age players chosen by Pearce were Beckham’s former Manchester United team-mate Ryan Giggs, Manchester City defender Micah Richards and Welshman Craig Bellamy.
Beckham, 37, had spoken repeatedly of his desire to play in an Olympics staged in London despite accusations from critics that his participation would devalue the football tournament.
The former Real Madrid star was widely expected to be granted at least a place in the squad as reward for his role in helping London win the Olympics at the 2005 International Olympic Committee vote in Singapore.
The football superstar’s presence on the campaign trail is often credited as being one of the key factors in tipping the vote London’s way during the final few days of lobbying.
Beckham’s presence in the Olympic team had looked assured after he was included in a 35-man shortlist earlier this month.
He had also accompanied the Olympic Flame from Athens back to Britain and carried it after it was lit before the torch relay got under way.
However British Olympic officials had insisted Pearce would have a free hand in selecting his squad and would not come under pressure to select Beckham, who would have generated box-office appeal for the football tournament.
“We have been very clear from the outset, it’s absolutely Stuart’s choice and he is totally free to make the selection of the team he believes will put in the best performance,” British Olympic Association chief Andy Hunt said.
“It’s as simple as that.”
Beckham’s exclusion won backing from Pearce’s former England team-mate Peter Shilton, who told Sky Sports the midfielder was past his best.
“I’ve not been watching David play in the States but it’s a different level of football over there,” Shilton said.
“Stuart Pearce wants to do well and win the tournament. To do that you must win so many games in so many days and the older you get the less you can do that.
“David might play the first game well, but then the second game becomes a bit harder.
“He’s been a fantastic player over the years, certainly when he was at his peak, but he’s nowhere near the player he was.
“It would have been great from a publicity point of view, but Stuart Pearce obviously feels he’d struggle in that type of tournament.”