Great Britain’s Olympic Captain a Class Act

The Great Britain soccer team has already made headlines by picking David Beckham as one of the three over-age players for Great Britain’s Olympic team. Many clamored for Beckham to be a part of the team, and figured that it would be a great gesture for the host country to include him in the tournament. Instead, coach Stuart Pearce went in a different direction, and in the process will end up honoring another Manchester United legend.

Ryan Giggs made his first appearance for Manchester United during the 1990-1991 season, and has been a regular with the team virtually ever since. He broke onto the scene in 1995, at a time when the United had gone trophy-less for the first time since the 1988-1989 season. Giggs was part of a team with Beckham, Paul Scholes, Nicky Butt, and the Neville brothers, forming the foundation for Manchester United’s dynasty. Early on, famous tv analyst Alan Hanson made the claim that ‘you’ll never win with kids’ and condemned Alex Ferguson’s faith in the young players. But ‘the kids’ responded with 12 Premier League titles, four FA Cups, and two Champions League titles.

Giggs was a big contributor to Manchester’s success. He was the first player in league history to win consecutive Young Player of the Year awards, and has been named to the Premier League team of the decade and FA Cup team of the century. Almost more astonishing is Giggs’ durability. He has appeared in over 900 matches for Manchester United, and his Ripken-esque reliability has endured the massive influx of talent that has spilled into the English game over the last twenty years.

But for all of Giggs’ club accomplishments, he never garnered the acclaim that comes from international soccer. This is because Giggs is from Wales, and has never had the chance to appear in a World Cup tournament. Similar to another Manchester United legend, Northern Ireland’s George Best, Giggs is solely known for his club accomplishments. To put this into context, Wales has only qualified for one major international tournament in its history, the 1958 World Cup. Meanwhile, England have played in 4 World Cups and 5 European Championships since Giggs debuted with Wales in 1991.

At 38, this Olympics marks the first and last opportunity for Giggs to shine on the international stage. After making 64 appearances for Wales, he retired from the national team in 2007 in order to focus on his club career. When the English FA announced that they would keep Olympic tradition and enter a Great Britain team, Giggs sought this as an interesting challenge, and offered his services. Once that happened, coach Stuart Pearce named Giggs captain, calling it ‘probably the easiest decision of my life.’ Giggs will set the examples for young stars like Tom Cleverley, Craig Bellamy, and Aaron Ramsey, and try to win a medal in the process. The consummate professional, Giggs is the logical choice to lead this U-23 team, and believes that the squad of combined nations can go far in the tournament. 

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