Beckham Olympic snub for belligerent Bellamy

June 30, 2012 in International, Olympics

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My first thought on hearing about David Beckham’s dismissal from the GB Olympic squad was “Fetch me my keyboard of anger”, and so I did. I have ranted on Facebook, Twitter, and now I have the Ballsy Banter platform in which to vent my rage too.

I mean, really, what was Stuart Pearce thinking? I know how the arguments have gone; those who think Becks doesn’t have the same talent he had 10 years ago, that he plays in the USA not Britain, and that his footballing skill isn’t actually as good as we’ve told ourselves it is.

But really, so what? Even without the fact that he might not be in his prime anymore, he is still one of the best footballers in Britain, and I think on top of all that, his sheer dedication to the game and to the Olympics is unflappable. He has been at the forefront of Great Britain’s Olympic campaign and I was so proud when he was chosen to receive the Olympic flame when it first landed here – the only other sports personality I would have deemed worth enough aside to Becks to have such an honour would be Sir Steve Redgrave.

But back to the matter at hand. Opinion seems to be split. A number of sports writers seem to believe that Becks being left out of the team is actually much deserved, that Stuart Pearce has made the right decision on taking Ryan Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Micah Richards as the three over 23 year old players allowed. Most of the general public, at the same time however, are outraged.

And so am I.

I don’t dispute that Ryan Giggs deserves his place. At 38 years old, he has had a magnificent season with Manchester United – he’s a real veteran footballer who understands and loves the game, and has shown that age doesn’t matter when you have skill and talent (and a Paul Scholes return) on your side.

But Micah Richards and Craig Bellamy? Either of those could have been easily dropped in favour of Beckham, but it’s difficult to compare; one is a right back and the other is an angry little goblin winger.

Micah Richards
Undeniably a terrific footballer who had a great season with Manchester City (and one of their few players who actually came through the youth system). But his attitude on not being picked as a first team squad member for England’s Euro 2012 campaign leaves a smudge on his reputation. Refusing to be a standby player when you have the likes of John Terry, a world class defender like Ashley Cole and his magnificent team-mate Joleon Lescott is not only childish, but also fatal for any potential England career he might have had. Roy Hodgeson seems to have had a positive effect on the England squad and so is likely to be around for a long time, Richards snub will not sit well with him when picking squad members for future competitions.

Craig Bellamy
Personally, I cannot stand him. His ability as a footballer is overshadowed by his temper both on and off the pitch. For every great moment Bellamy has in his career, he’ll have a terrible one the following week (it won’t take much for Newcastle fans to remember Inter Milan in 2002). His current stint at Liverpool provided only six goals in 27 appearances; although to be fair, he has assisted some pretty important goals. I want to be impartial towards him, but he is one of the few players for whom I find that impossible.

If the choice of which of the two should have been rejected in favour of Beckham was down to me, I would have to say Bellamy. Sure, he is less likely to get the opportunity on an international stage considering the Welsh have not made it to the finals of a major tournament since 1958, but in Britain, we are lucky to have a wealth of good young wingers and strikers who will have the opportunity to shine in London. It is our defence that will need some rigidity and experience, which regardless of his attitude towards Euro 2012, Richards would be able to provide.

On Beckham himself, those who say he doesn’t deserve a place in the squad just because he helped us get the Olympics in the first place, well, they’re right. But he hasn’t just done that, has he? He had a phenomenal career at Manchester United and an amazing England career (let’s disregard his ill-judged lashing out in France 1998). What Beckham would have brought to the GB squad over Bellamy and Richards is the attitude of a real sportsman, a love of both his country and the game and experience of football that few others have ever achieved. He is respected by every young British footballer, most of whom probably spent their early years imitating Beckham in the school playground. He would be a leader even if he hadn’t been awarded the Captain’s armband, and he would have been the morale-boosting figure that is so often invisible in British football.

In defence of his choice, Stuart Pearce said “I’m picking on form and merit alone”. This is obviously not true. Bellamy and Richards may have form, but they do not have merit. Beckham may not be the Golden Balls of the early noughties, but his form is still brilliant, and his merit is above anyone else who could have possibly have been a contender in the 17-man squad. I could say more, but I think I’ve made my point.