(WFI) David Beckham has underlined what it would mean to be part of Stuart Pearce’s British football team at the Olympics. The former England captain also believes England can exceed expectations at Euro 2012 and says Gary Neville is a great addition to Roy Hodgson’s England management team.
“I would love to be part of the [Olympics] team,” the former England captain told reporters on a school visit in Athens where he was fulfilling duties as a London 2012 Olympics ambassador.
“I have always made it clear and everyone knows I love representing my country. I have done that for quite a few years with the national team 115 times. I am very proud of that.”
The 37-year-old, who is hoping to be named as one of the three over-age players in Pearce’s U-23 squad to be announced in the coming weeks, said he was fit and ready to play a role for Team GB if selected.
“I’m still training and playing throughout the season,” said the MLS Los Angeles Galaxy players.
“We are only nine games into our season, playing well and feeling fit. Fitness all the way through my career hasn’t been a problem and won’t be leading up to the Games. If I am selected I will be in good condition.”
Beckham said he had spoken briefly with Pearce when the Team GB boss had visited Los Angeles to check on his fitness and form for the Galaxy a few weeks ago.
“He could have caught me on a better day,” Beckham joked, “he also could have caught me on a worse day. It wasn’t our best day as a team.
“He knows what my fitness is like and what my passion is like as well so we’ll see.”
Debate is raging over whether he deserves to be in the Olympic team on merit. One school of thought is that his celebrity status might help shift some of the thousands of tickets still available for the football tournament. Sebastian Coe, chairman of London 2012 organisers, yesterday denied that he was putting any pressure on Pearce to pick Beckham.
Beckham himself stressed he doesn’t want to be part of Pearce’s plans just because he might put more bums on seats.
“I have never kind of said it, but I’ve always found that a little disrespectful,” he said.
“Throughout my career I have been pretty successful, played for some pretty big teams and played for my country quite a few times.
“When you play for Sir Alex Ferguson, Fabio Capello and Sven Goran Eriksson they don’t pick players because they want to fill the stadium with people or especially because they want to sell shirts.
Beckham added: “I don’t want to be picked on a shirt sale or a stadium filler. I want to be picked because of what I can bring to the team. It’s the kind of thing that has happened all the way through my career. I don’t want that to change.”
England’s most capped outfield player said he could bring experience and passion to the side that may also feature Manchester United’s Ryan Giggs as one of the other over-age players.
He said his experience of playing in big competitions and big games over the years would be invaluable to Team GB if chosen.
“It’s important to have a certain amount of experience in there with young players. We also have that with Stuart [Pearce]”.
Beckham on England’s Euro 2012 Chances
Beckham also commented on Gary Neville’s appointment as an assistant coach to England manager Roy Hodgson for the Euro 2012 tournament in Poland and Ukraine that kicks off on June 8.
“Roy Hodgson is a brave man,” Beckham quipped about another of his former teammates and a good pal.
“I think it’s great. Gary’s knowledge throughout the game… he’s been in big tournaments and played for England for
many years. I wish him the best of luck.
“Gary’s always been very vocal about many things. He has had the experience of being through tournaments and obviously being disappointed in tournaments and knowing what he thinks has been the problem.
“That’s why I think it’s a very clever move. It’s great for the team and let’s hope we go out there and we’re successful.”
Beckham believes Hodgson’s squad could exceed expectations in the month-long UEFA competition.
“It’s a new team with young players and it’s one of the first times we have gone into a big competition without huge, huge expectation on our shoulders and that could maybe be a good thing,” he said.
Asked by INSIDER how far England could go in Euro 2012, he said: “I hope they can go all the way. That’s obviously always been our main objective in every competition we have gone into.
“We have got great young players, we have got talented players, new management, so who knows it might be our year.”
Beckham will later today fly to an naval air base in southwest England on a specially chartered plane with the 2012 Olympic torch that was handed over to London Olympics chiefs yesterday in a ceremony in Athens.
After the London 2012 delegation have arrived, Beckham will light a cauldron at Culdrose near Land’s End where the Olympic flame begins its 70-day UK trek tomorrow.
“To be travelling back with the flame tonight and to be lighting it is something very special and something I’m going to cherish for many years,” he told reporters.
“Obviously there is a certain amount of pressure that comes with that. I hope it lights,” he joked.
“So do we, ” Coe interjected at the media briefing.
Olympic Torch Lighting Role
Beckham is expected to be named as one of the 8,000 torchbearers who will carry the Olympic flame on its 8,000-mile journey around the UK which will culminate in the lighting of the cauldron in the Olympic stadium on July 27.
He remained tight-lipped on whether he had been asked to be a torchbearer. “If I was to be a torchbearer to carry the torch through London would be very special.”
The former England great who calls east London, location of the Olympic Park, his “manor” because he was brought up there, claimed the arrival of the torch in England would signal the start of Olympic fever.
One of the biggest Olympics benefits, he said, had been the “incredible” transformation of a former industrial wasteland in east London.
Looking ahead to this summer’s Games, Beckham said he’ll “hopefully be ok for tickets” and plans to watch events with his three sons.
“They are so excited about the Games. It’s quite cute to hear them talk about certain events they want to go to. They want to see the football obviously, swimming and cycling and the 100 metres… as many of the sports they can get to they will go,” he said.
asked what he thought might be the big sporting moments at the Olympics, he said it would be the great rivalries like Coe versus Steve Ovett in the middle distance races of the 1980 and 1984 Ol8ympics that he remembers from his childhood.
“Great moments like watching these rivalries and the passion of the athletes. It is something that will change generations for years,” he said.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson in Athens
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