(WFI) London 2012 chief Sebastian Coe says he is putting no pressure on Team GB’s men’s football coach to pick David Beckham for the Olympics even though his selection is guaranteed to help shift some of the 1.4 million tickets on sale for this summer’s football tournaments.
The former England captain arrives later today in the Greek capital to take part in the Olympic torch handover ceremony at the Panathenaic Stadium, home of the first Olympics of the modern era in 1896.
Speaking at a briefing in Athens on Thursday, Coe told reporters that using the LA Galaxy player at this milestone event in the run-up to this summer’s Games was only fitting given Beckham’s involvement with the London 2012 bid and subsequent role as a global ambassador for the Olympics. He said it should not make it harder for Team GB football boss Stuart Pearce to omit him from his squad.
“We have put absolutely no pressure on Stuart Pearce at all. Stuart has to pick the team that he thinks can lift that trophy,” Coe told reporters.
“I wouldn’t expect any coach to be operating on any other basis whether it’s wrestling or Olympic football. I think the coach has to be in pole position, you can never put pressure on coaches to choose people for any particular reason other than skill and merit.”
Coe admits that Beckham would add glamour to the Olympics football competition but insists that should not affect the selection decision.
“I think anything he joins he brings that to. It is entirely up to Stuart. Of course to have David around the Olympic programme is a fantastic thing but that’s not for anybody other than Stuart to decide,”
The double Olympic champion denied that bringing Beckham into the spotlight in Athens, a move designed to raise the profile of the torch handover ahead of its 70-day UK relay beginning Saturday, would now make it more difficult for Pearce to leave him out of his Team GB plans.
“No, absolutely not any more than we would expect a recall for Steve Redgrave or Daley Thompson,” Coe said.
“It would be ridiculous not to use somebody who has been intimately involved with the whole process and actually rings up on a regular basis to ask if there’s anything else he needs to know and can do to help us.”
Olympics minister Hugh Robertson said he had witnessed first-hand the technical side involved in the selection of elite athletes across some of 26 Olympic sports – and expects the same rigorous selection criteria to be applied by Pearce for the football squad.
“You can’t have in that highly competitive environment a sentimental moment and pick somebody because it would be nice for the front pages of the newspapers,” he told reporters.
“It is just not the way this process works. It would be lovely, yes, to see Beckham at the Olympics but he has to be there on the merits of his own performance and nothing else.”
Beckham, who attended a White House ceremony with his Galaxy team mates earlier this week to receive an award from US President Barack Obama for winning the Major League Soccer Championship, is one of several senior players being considered by Pearce for his U-23 Olympic squad.
Pearce is due to select the 18 members of his squad in the next few weeks; it will include three over-age players. Along with Beckham, Manchester United star Ryan Giggs is hotly tipped to fill two of the slots.
England manager Roy Hodgson named his Euro 2012 squad yesterday. The English FA have previously confirmed that those picked for the UEFA football showpiece in Poland and Ukraine are ineligible for the Olympics.
By INSIDER editor Mark Bisson
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