Why Pearce was right to exclude the Beckham circus
Something has clearly vexed David Beckham. England’s provider of dignified, unflustered chic appeared rattled to the core as he threatened to engage in combat with a mascot resembling the lovechild of a smurf and the cast of Dad’s Army after LA Galaxy’s 4-3 defeat to San Jose Earthquakes. After kicking the ball at an opponent down on the floor, Beckham became increasingly incensed and seemed to incite further confrontation with members of the opposition. Was this a veiled show of frustration at being omitted from Great Britain’s Olympic squad – an overreaction that mirrors the media hysteria that followed his exclusion?
Beckham, of course, has never been someone to shy away from the public gaze. Arguably Great Britain’s most famous sporting export, the Beckham brand is one which has navigated its way across waters, boundaries and beyond the simple world of football. Asked in a poll some two years ago who they thought David Beckham was, some 10% of Americans polled believed he was a member of the Royal Family. He transcends the sport, and that is precisely why the furore surrounding Beckham’s exclusion from the Olympic Squad is a categorical overreaction.
The Olympic Games are built upon the principles of competitiveness, sportsmanship and fairness. Athletes competing at the games have earned their right to be present at the world’s most enthralling sporting spectacle. The arguments in favour of Beckham being at the games were predominantly centred around his public standing as opposed to any footballing merit. He was to be an ambassador for Britain, the bearded and meticulously groomed face of British sport. Yet such an exercise in public relations would have been an insult the the values of Olympia. He would not have been there as any bastion of sporting excellence, merely another tool for the London 2012 media wagon to exploit.
There is no doubt that Beckham remains a worthwhile and ultimately talented footballer. He was pivotal in helping the LA Galaxy secure a first MLS title and the fact that Paris St-Germain displayed persistent and genuine interest in his services is testimony to the 37-year-old’s enduring ability.
Though the magic right foot remains, it is as flaky and brittle as at any point in his career. Beckham is rumoured to have survived for a large portion of Galaxy’s season on a potent concoction of painkillers to mask his deteriorating physical condition – take a look at the footage of the final few minutes of their last league game, with an embattled Beckham barely able to hobble yet still crunching mercilessly into challenges. It was perhaps a wider signifier of Beckham’s current status: committed as ever, willing to sacrifice himself for the cause yet with the ultimate realisation that his body will no longer allow him to to do so. Beckham would have run himself senseless for Great Britain, but for how long?
Then there is exists the argument that the MLS is nothing more than a Sunday pub league, a claim made by some of the media’s most respected writers which smacks of nothing but ignorance. Football in America is on an upward curve, and is by no means worthy of such idiotic comparisons, as demonstrated by the increasing number of products making the successful transition to Europe’s top leagues. Crucially, however, it is still not of a sufficient standard to warrant Beckham’s inclusion in comparison to those selected ahead of him: Micah Richards, Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy have each played significant game time in a league of superior technicality, competitiveness and ability.
If anything, the wretched misfortune and injustice of Micah Richards in not making England’s Euro 2012 squad is itself a justification for his selection ahead of Beckham.
Above all, it must be remembered that Great Britain, as hosts of the games, must pick the most deserving, accomplished and physically able group of players in order to provide the greatest chance of success. Besides being a brazen promotional campaign for London, the game must also be seen as an opportunity for Britain to accomplish on home soil.
David Beckham may have sold more tickets and whipped up more of a media storm but his inclusion would have been at the disregard of competition and ambition. His role would have been nothing more than the occasional cameo and his footballing virtues limited. Stuart Pearce has made the right choice. Including a below-par, out of sorts Beckham would benefit neither the player nor team. Beckham is best remembered as the courageous, artistic midfielder he once was for England. It would be a shame to tarnish these memories.
Do you think David Beckham’s exclusion is the right decision or a raging injustice? Tweet me @acherrie1