Stuart Pearce

David Beckham Olympics
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David Beckham’s omission from London Olympic team: ‘I desperately wanted him on the squad,’ coach says

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Stuart Pearce, the 2012 Great Britain Olympic men’s soccer coach, believes that his decision to leave David Beckham off the team led to discussions at the Prime Minister’s office about whether Pearce should have been fired.

Pearce, speaking on Talksport radio earlier this month, said he was under pressure “like you would never know” to pick Beckham for the first British Olympic soccer team since 1960.

“It’s been the most difficult decision I’ve ever had to make in my life,” said Pearce, a former Premier League and England national team player.

Pearce had three over-age spots for players born before Jan. 1, 1989, like the then-37-year-old Beckham. He went with Ryan GiggsCraig Bellamy and Micah Richards. He said on Talksport that Beckham’s age was not the reason he was left off (Giggs was 38).

“I wanted David in the squad. I wanted him to play well enough to set an example for the rest of the players in that squad with the way he carries himself, everything that he’d done to bring the Olympic Games to this country,” Pearce said. “I was desperate for David to be in that squad, but I also, being the football man in me, I wanted it to be a fair playing field for every player, so it was only ever going to be in my mind picked on ability.

“I was backed into a corner in many ways and couldn’t pick him purely because I knew I’d water the squad down if I did.”

Beckham’s last match for England was in 2009. He moved from Real Madrid to the Los Angeles Galaxy in 2007 and helped the club win the 2011 MLS Cup.

Pearce went on to say that he believed there were conversations “behind my back” between Beckham’s agent and the English Football Association about him being captain of the Olympic team. Obviously, those would have been before Pearce’s surprising decision a month before the Games.

“And I even believe, from what I can gather, that once a decision was made by myself that he wasn’t going to be in the squad, it was even mentioned at Downing Street whether it was the right decision or not, whether they should replace me as the manager,” Pearce said, “which I quite understand, you know.”

Back in 2012, Beckham handled the news with a statement.

“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,” it read. “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.”

Beckham played a role in helping London land the Games. He traveled to Singapore with the bid delegation in 2005 for the IOC members vote. He authored one of the most memorable scenes of the Opening Ceremony, driving the Olympic Flame down the River Thames on a motor boat.

Great Britain did not have an Olympic soccer team in 2016, but a women’s team is part of the Tokyo field.

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Great Britain’s Olympic soccer manager criticizes Gareth Bale for skipping London 2012

Gareth Bale
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Stuart Pearce, who managed the Great Britain soccer team to a quarterfinal exit at the London Olympics, recently singled out Welsh star Gareth Bale for pulling out Olympic consideration the night before the team was named last year.

Bale, a 24-year-old attacking midfielder, transferred from England’s Tottenham Hotspur to Spain’s Real Madrid for a fee reported to be upwards of $100 million two weeks ago.

Pearce’s comments to Sky Sports were published in several British outlets, including the Guardian:

“I don’t want to speak out of school and speak out of confidences, but we had a situation with Gareth Bale. We were going into the Olympic Games, I’ve spoken to him seven months prior about going to the Games, I’m going to put the squad out on the Friday morning – on Thursday he rings me and says his back’s not so good, he’s going to have to pull out of the squad.

“He plays his first game for Tottenham pre-season the same day as we play our first Olympic game. We’ve got the brightest talent in Britain at the time didn’t want to go to the Olympic Games. And he wasn’t alone, by the way. There [were] a couple of others as well, because of the media hype that football shouldn’t be in the Olympics.

“Now you ask the 23 players who went to the Olympics – you ask [Craig] Bellamy [Ryan] Giggs, ask players of that ilk what they felt about the Olympic experience and they’ll say arguably it could have been the best experience of their life on a football pitch.”

Britain was bounced from the quarterfinals by South Korea in its first appearance in the Olympic soccer tournament since 1960.

Perhaps Bale could have helped Team GB. He scored 21 Premier League goals for Spurs last season and won the Professional Footballers’ Association Players’ Player of the Year award.

Spurs manager Andre Villas-Boas said last year that Bale merely made a faster-than-expected recovery to be able to play for Tottenham while the Olympics were going on.

2012 Olympic champion’s bow-and-arrow first pitch