WARSAW, Poland, June 28: For the 10,000 athletes coming to the London Games, the Olympic dream has yet to start. For David Beckham, it´s already over.
One of the most recognizable sportsmen in the world, and a key player in London´s winning bid for the Olympics, Beckham has failed to make the 18-man British football squad for the games.
The Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder had expected to be selected after making the 35-man shortlist but was informed by coach Stuart Pearce on Wednesday night that he had not made the final squad. There are only three places allowed for players over the age of 23.
"Everyone knows how much playing for my country has always meant to me, so I would have been honored to have been part of this unique Team GB squad," the 37-year-old Beckham said in a statement Thursday. "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."
The decision denies the Londoner a chance to be reunited with his former Manchester United teammate Ryan Giggs on the international stage as Britain fields its first Olympic football team since 1960.
Giggs, fellow Welshman Craig Bellamy and English defender Micah Richards will be the overage players in the squad, a person familiar with the situation said. He spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because details of the squad haven´t been publicly released.
London organizing chairman Sebastian Coe praised Beckham´s commitment to London since it won the bid in 2005 and indicated there could still be a role for him at the Olympics, though not in a sporting capacity.
"David has been an extraordinary supporter, probably our No. 1 supporter, of the games from the very beginning and is keen to continue his enthusiastic support right to the end," Coe said.
"He really gets this. He is from east London and knows how important the games and sport are to young people. He is a great role model and we are lucky to have such an advocate. I will be talking to him about a games-time role."
British bookmaker Ladbrokes slashed the odds on Beckham being given the honor of lighting the Olympic flame at the July 27 opening ceremony, making him 5-1. Five-time rowing gold medalist Steve Redgrave is the 1-2 favorite.
For his part, Beckham has so far only said he hopes to attend the Olympics and support the 550-strong British team for the games.
"As a Londoner, I will have been really proud to have played a small part in bringing the Olympics to my home town as part of Seb´s team, and I can´t wait for the games to begin and enjoy every moment along with the rest of Great Britain," Beckham said.
The British Olympic Association said it had not yet been informed by the English Football Association, which is running the team, that Beckham had been overlooked by Pearce. The coach had traveled to the United States to assess Beckham´s form and fitness in Major League Soccer.
"We are expecting the list no later than the early part of next week," the BOA said in a statement.
The decision by Pearce almost certainly spells the end of Beckham´s career representing his country, having made 115 England appearances — a record for an outfield player — with the last coming in 2009.
It appears that Beckham lost his place to the 24-year-old Richards, who plays for Manchester City and will provide extra defensive cover after missing out on England´s European Championship squad.
The 32-year-old Bellamy is a forward at Liverpool who, like Giggs and Richards, has never appeared at a major international football tournament.
Britain plays its opening match against Senegal at Old Trafford on July 26, faces the United Arab Emirates three days later at Wembley and Uruguay on Aug. 1 at the Millennium Stadium.
Britain has not fielded an Olympic football team since 1960 because Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland feared losing their independence within FIFA. The world body has assured the federations that their status won´t be affected by participating in the 16-team competition at the London Games.