Monday, July 2, 2012
Britain adds Ryan Giggs to team
LONDON -- Britain's first men's Olympic soccer team since 1960 includes Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs but is missing the host nation's most iconic player.
Britain's first men's Olympic soccer team since 1960 includes Manchester United midfielder Ryan Giggs.
Former England captain David Beckham was absent from the list of 18 players announced Monday by the British Olympic Association.
That decision had been expected after Beckham said Thursday he had failed to make the cut. The 38-year-old Giggs, Craig Bellamy and Micah Richards were the three players over the age limit of 23 summoned by coach Stuart Pearce.
There are 13 Englishmen and five Welshmen in the squad, with no players from Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Chelsea forward Daniel Sturridge, Arsenal midfielder Aaron Ramsey and Manchester United midfielder Tom Cleverley were among the 15 Premier League players included. The other three play for teams in the second-tier League Championship.
"It has not been an easy task to finalize my squad for this tournament, and the stature of the competition and uniqueness of the occasion has underlined the importance of every choice I have made," Pearce said in a statement.
"With just 18 places, it is very different from other international tournaments. The options are limited, but it is the Olympic Games and every player in this squad should be very proud they have a chance to compete for a gold medal on home soil."
Giggs is among the greatest Premier League players but has never played in a major tournament with Wales, making the Olympics likely to be his international swansong.
A winger-turned-central midfielder, Giggs has retired from the Wales national team. Wales' current best player is Gareth Bale but he ruled himself out of contention for the Olympics because of a back injury.
Britain has not fielded an Olympic team since the Rome Games 52 years ago because soccer federations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland feared a unified team could cause them to lose ndependence within FIFA.
The world body assured the three federations that their status wouldn't be affected by participating in the 16-team men's competition at the London Games.
"I have never looked at their individual nationalities, I see them as a British participant and I hope that will be the case throughout our Isles," Pearce said of his player choices.
"I can't even tell you, if I'm honest, how many players in this squad are from Wales or England. They are individuals that are Olympians now."
Britain plays its opening match against Senegal at Old Trafford on July 26, faces the United Arab Emirates three days later at Wembley and Uruguay on Aug. 1 at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
"I remember the huge advantage we gained from playing in front of our own fans during Euro 96," said Pearce, a former English national team defender, "and I'm sure with the nation behind us it could be a fantastic tournament for us."