Or Maybe Not…

It is almost official, David Beckham is staying in Los Angeles after all.  The deal with Paris Saint Germain fell through, and Beckham plans to remain in MLS for the rest of his career.

The question of course is why (Victoria).  Beckham’s reason, according to PSG, is that he didn’t want to uproot his family who have settled very nicely in LA (Victoria).  But the other issue is hidden lines in the ESPN article.  Stuart Pearce, who will manage the Great Britain Olympics team said that Beckham’s place in his squad will not be in jeopardy if he stays in LA.  This is a completely different response than Fabio Capello’s, who, when he first came to the post of England manager, said that playing in MLS would automatically eliminate Beckham from national team contention.  Hence the Milan stints.

One thing that cannot be denied about Beckham is how devoted he is to playing for the England National Team which, in comparison to the current crop of players, is admirable.  It’s part of the reason why the English love Beckham as irrationally as they do.  Even though Capello is leaving this year, Beckham will most likely never play for England again.  He’s no longer the player he was, and the Great Britain team is his last hurrah.*

One final note.  I cannot wait for the World Football Phone In this Friday.  Sean Wheelock will be eating so much crow from the Beckham-loving audience.

Footnotes (and it’s a long one, sorry):

*  You may be asking yourself about the differences between the English National Team and the Great Britain National Team that will play only at the London Olympics.  In the football world, each of the component nations of the United Kingdom is its own autonomous country with its own autonomous governing body, league, and national team.  At Olympic competitions however, competitors from England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland jointly represent the UK (the team is actually the Great Britain and Northern Ireland team; it’s complicated).  In any other Olympics, all four of the UK’s national teams would individually try to compete.  This year however is different because the home nation is the UK, not England.  Having all four home nations entered in the tournament would be neither viable nor fair.  Ergo, there is one Great Britain (UK) team although only the English FA is participating, because the other three FA’s all feared that FIFA would use the participation to take away their autonomy.  (The player may come from all four nations, but only because the other three FAs cannot stop them.)

Given all that, why pick Beckham when there are so many players in their prime who could be a part of the team?  The International Olympic Committee and FIFA have a somewhat strained relationship when it comes to football.  Once upon a time, football was like rugby and test cricket in that one-off matches and tours were the bread and butter of the international game, and “cup hunting” was looked down upon.  The Olympics though was different, especially as it was only open to amateurs.  It was therefore the premier international tournament in the world.  In 1924, Uruguay shocked Europe by winning the Olympics, and in doing so created the modern game.  After Uruguay defended in 1928 (over Argentina who entered because they were furious that their neighbors/rivals showed up the Europeans first), the World Cup was created, and the Olympics was relegated to second-tier status.  Now the Olympic football teams are U-23 sides that can have up to three players over that age limit.  Clubs however, are not obligated to release their players to the Olympics as they are for other international tournaments.  Additionally, managers, especially of English clubs, hate international tournaments with a passion and will already be forced to release their best players for this summer’s Euro 2012.  Combined, this all means that for one reason or another, the best UK players may not be going to the Olympics (although Gareth Bale wants to go).  Enter Beckham.  He wants to represent his country, no one will stop him from playing, he’s an icon in England, and he has experience in international competitions.  He is the absolute perfect person to play for a UK Olympic football team, and the tournament will be his last hurrah in the international game.


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