David Beckham has been left off Great Britain's Olympic soccer squad, Team GB — an eyebrow-raising decision that will provoke pub and dinner table discussions till the cows come home. Or at least till the Olympics start.
"Becks" is arguably the most famous footballer on the planet, a sporting icon known as much for his face as his feet. But is it really a surprise that he won't be representing the home nations come August in London? Let us discuss.
The case for Beckham's inclusion:
1. He will help sell tickets for an event that has not yet fully gripped the imagination of the British public. For the first time ever, Great Britain has a unified team with a mix of players from England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Having Beckham in the team, especially as Captain, would ensure interest would spread beyond the typical football (or soccer) fan. Women would come from all corners of the globe to watch David brush his hair, let alone play football. It's simple: Beckham sells tickets.
2. He was one of the faces of the Great Britain bid to bring the summer Olympics to London in the first place. He is a British institution and an ambassador to the sport of football. Having Beckham represent Britain would be the pinnacle of his career, and it would be a way to thank him for his years of service — both on and off the field. It is, you could say, the right thing to do.
3. England had another disappointing Euros experience this year, but if Britain won during the Olympics with Beckham at the helm, it would galvanize the nation. Merchandise with Beckham's face planted all over it would sell like hotcakes — sending consumer spending up. And what nation wouldn't want that?
The case against Beckham's inclusion:
1. He just isn't good enough anymore. He is 37, and while that makes him younger than a lot of us, he is a little old to be included in a team that will field only three players older than age 23. He decided to continue his trade in the United States' second-tier MLS league rather than play in Europe. That is another way of saying he wanted to play with players who, while not exactly rubbish, were not the best in the world.
2. When Beckham went to play in the U.S., he said he wanted to raise the profile of soccer there, and good for him. The flip side: he wouldn't be playing in Britain. More than anything, the decision was about money.We know all that hair product is expensive, but would it have hurt him that much to play in his own country leading up to the Olympics? Does Britain owe Becks an automatic spot given that his children have a North American accent and that he lives in Los Angeles while he could be singlehandedly helping offset the British financial deficit with the spare change in his pocket? Hmmm.
3. Although the British team concept is new, Beckham has played for England 115 times, more than any other outfield player. It's time to hang up those international boots and let the younglings play.
The full squad has yet to be announced — so far, we only know about the over-age players (older than 23). That said, midfielders Jack Rodwell (21, Everton), Tom Cleverly (22, Manchester Utd) and Gareth Bale (23, Spurs) should figure. Bale, who is Welsh, is likely to be the star of the team. Daniel Sturridge (23, Chelsea) could also shine.
Perhaps there is another Beckham out there we haven't discovered yet. Perhaps he will emerge during the Olympics.
Would I have picked Beckham? Yes I would, because I am a softie at heart. What do you think?
by Matt Goff