Pearce’s refusal to select David Beckham for the 2012 Summer Olympic Games in London stunned many, upset sponsors and put him at odds with his bosses.
The decision was certainly a gamble. Whether it was done with the intention of crossing swords with England’s Football Association (the FA) as some suggest, or put Britain in position to win Olympic gold (as he says) is unknown. But Pearce’s five-year tenure as manager of England’s U-21 national team is likely to come to an end, and he’s determined to go out on his own terms.
Beckham, 37, was said to be “devastated” by the decision. After playing an instrumental, ambassadorial role in London’s successful bid to host the Olympics, he was hoping to end his international career in his hometown. Pearce included the former Manchester United and Real Madrid star on his initial 35-man short-list, but denied Beckham that Hollywood ending he wanted so badly.
The men’s Olympic soccer tournament is a competition restricted to players 23-years-old and under, but each country can select up to three over-age players. It was assumed Beckham would be one of them, but Pearce opted for Liverpool’s Craig Bellamy, Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs and Manchester City’s Micah Richards instead.
At this point, it’s difficult to assess the soccer merits of the Beckham snub, as the rest of the squad has yet to be revealed. Bellamy is an attacker and Richards is a defender, so it seems the decision came down to midfielders Beckham or Giggs. Both are capable of playing in the center and out wide. Beckham is the biggest star (off-field) in the Premier League era, while Giggs is the best British player of the last 20 years.
Pearce may have been swayed by both players’ recent form. Beckham and his L.A. teammates had a slow start to the 2012 MLS season, and Pearce may not have been impressed by the Galaxy star’s constant jet-setting during the current campaign. On two recent occasions, he flew to L.A. to watch Beckham in action. Although Beckham’s form has improved in the last month, his performances since early March probably do not justify his selection over Giggs. The Welshman came within seconds of winning the 2011-12 Premier League with Manchester United.
Although it won’t be the one he craves most, Beckham will most likely play a part in the Olympics. He will attend games and sponsor events. He may even light the torch during the opening ceremony. But Pearce, having been frozen out of Roy Hodgson‘s staff with the England senior team, decided to let the suits find a role fitting of the man who helped them secure the games.
Pearce chose to shield his team from the celebrity and media circus that follows Beckham wherever he goes. He is busy trying to win a gold medal for his country; the very country in which the game was invented.