LONDON - David Beckham’s hopes of playing for a combined British team at the Olympic Games in his native London remained intact after he survived the latest whittling down of manager Stuart Pearce’s squad.
Pearce, also currently the caretaker boss of the England national side, reduced his initial 191-man long list to 80 players on Wednesday.
They are now being contacted by the English Football Association to see if they are available for Games duty.
Provided he remains fit, it seems likely Beckham, 37 next month, will be one of the over-age players in what is primarily an Under-23 tournament when ex-England full-back Pearce names his 18-man squad at the end of May.
Former England captain Beckham, worldwide the best known English footballer of his generation, is far and away the most high profile figure still in contention for a place in Pearce’s Olympic line-up.
Now with the LA Galaxy, former Manchester United midfielder Beckham was one of several leading sportsmen who helped convince International Olympic Committee delegates to award the Games to London.
And there is no doubt his presence in a British squad would help boost ticket sales for the Olympic football tournament although there are those who argue that, as his best days as a player are behind him, he may hinder home hopes of a gold medal.
Players from all the four Home Nations — England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland — that comprise the bulk of British squads for Olympic sports remain in contention for a place in the football team.
Although they accept they cannot bar their players from competing at the Games, football chiefs in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland remain adamantly opposed to a British team, fearing it could be the thin end of a wedge that ends with their extinction as independent soccer nations.
More than 50,000 tickets have been sold for the July 26 opening game at United’s Old Trafford home ground and a double-header friendly featuring both the men’s and women’s teams will be confirmed for the north-east of England at some stage over the next few weeks.
Britain will learn who their group stage opponents are at an official draw on Tuesday, a day after Senegal face Oman in Coventry, central England, in a playoff for the final place in the Olympic men’s football tournament.