Beckham’s absence will give rising stars the stage

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Beckham’s absence will give rising stars the stage

David Beckham’s shocking absence from the Olympic football tournament has provoked a storm of controversy, but Stuart Pearce’s decision to axe the aging star means the young prodigies of Brazil, Spain and Britain can take their rightful place in the spotlight.

Beckham was widely expected to make Great Britain’s final squad as one of three over-age players, but the former Manchester United and Real Madrid icon last week received an unwanted call from coach Pearce to inform him that he hadn’t made the cut.

The 37-year-old LA Galaxy midfielder was left out to allow Pearce to select Manchester City defender Micah Richards as his third over-age player, along with Welsh duo Ryan Giggs and Craig Bellamy.

Beckham responded with a statement underlining his disappointment and it is believed that leading figures in the British Olympic hierarchy, including Lord Coe, who worked closely with the player during London’s successful bid to host the event, were also unhappy that such a globally recognized figure would no longer be part of the Games.

While tickets for many of the Olympic events have already sold out, there has been less interest in the football, which is seen in Britain as a poor quality alternative to the Premier League and Champions League fare served up during the club season.

At one stage, there were over a million football tickets still available and Beckham would have sparked an increase in sales.

However, Pearce was well within his rights not to pick a player clearly in the twilight of his career and it is impossible to deny that his selection would have been motivated by profits rather than sporting merits.

“Right through this process I have had carte blanche to pick whatever players I regard as best,” Pearce said.

“Form plays a big part and I don’t think there is a manager around who picks on sentiment. I have to be comfortable when I have made decisions based solely on football grounds alone - nothing else.”

Beckham’s absence overshadowed Pearce’s decision to include 13 Englishmen in his squad and no players from Scotland or Northern Ireland.

Team GB will hardly be a fully representative squad, but at least the likes of Chelsea’s Ryan Bertrand, Manchester United’s Tom Cleverley and Swansea’s Scott Sinclair now have the chance to step out of Beckham’s shadow and impress on a global audience their precocious talents.

Pearce’s side, shorn of the injured Gareth Bale, have been drawn to play Senegal, UAE and Uruguay in Group A in the 16-team men’s event, but the favorites are Brazil and Spain.

Brazil could include gifted strikers Neymar and Alexandre Pato and aging legend Ronaldinho as the five-times world champions look to end their wait for Olympic gold. AFP

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