Beckham wants Olympic selection on merit only

David Beckham hit back on Friday at suggestions that he might be selected for the British Olympic football side at the London Games because of his celebrity status rather than on merit alone.

"I've never said it's disrespectful but it's kind of a question I've always felt is," the former England captain told reporters on a visit to meet children at a school in Athens when asked about his prospects.

"Throughout my career I've been pretty successful and played for some pretty big teams... and managers without sentiment.

"When you've played for managers like Alex Ferguson and Fabio Capello and Sven-Goran Eriksson...they don't pick players because they want to fill the stadium with people or sell shirts.

"I don't want to be picked on a shirt sale or a stadium filler," added the 37-year-old LA Galaxy player, part of a London delegation in the Greek capital to bring the Olympic flame back to Britain.

"I want to be picked because of what I can bring to the team," said the moustachioed veteran.

Beckham, a global sporting celebrity who drew one of the loudest cheers of the night when he arrived at Thursday's formal flame handover ceremony and was introduced as 'Sir David', is no longer in contention for a place in the England side.

However he is strongly tipped to be one of three 'over-age' players in the first united British side to compete at an Olympics since 1960.

BRAVE HODGSON

Team GB manager Stuart Pearce recently went to Los Angeles to watch him play, in a game Beckham said could have been both better and worse.

"I want to play. That's my main objective," he said. "I don't want to go as a coach."

The former Manchester United midfielder said he would be fit enough.

"I've never played in an Olympic Games before and never taken part in an Olympic Games so I would love to, I'd love to be part of the team.

"I am still training and playing throughout the season," he added. "We are only nine games into our season, I'm playing well and feeling fit. Fitness all the way through my career has not been a problem. It won't be leading up to the Games.

"If I am selected I will be in good condition," he said.

Beckham, confident he would be able to get his hands on tickets for the Games for his excited children, said the flame handover ceremony had given him goosebumps and a taste of what he might expect.

He has yet to be told whether he will be carrying the torch on a leg of the relay, but he will light the first cauldron in Britain later on Friday after stepping off the plane in Cornwall.

East London-born, and growing up not far from the new Olympic Park in Stratford, Beckham said it would be truly special if he could ultimately carry the torch through London.

"Everyone knows I love representing my country," said the man with 115 caps for England. "That's one of the reasons why I've always said that I wouldn't probably retire from the England team because I always want to be available."

Beckham congratulated England manager Roy Hodgson for his "very clever move" in appointing his former Manchester United team mate and 'Best Man' Gary Neville to the England coaching staff for Euro 2012.

"Roy Hodgson is a brave man," he grinned.

"I think it's great. Gary's knowledge throughout the game, he's been in big tournaments, played for England for years, I think it's a very clever thing but also great for the players and management."

Beckham hoped England could go all the way in Poland and Ukraine in June and July.

"It's a new team, young players and one of the first times where we've gone into a big competition without huge, huge expectation on our shoulders. I think that could be a good thing for the team."


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