Inside Lines: Now Fergie puts block on Ferdinand's Olympic hopes


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The Independent Online

Hopes that Rio Ferdinand would be given a consolation call-up for the GB Olympic football team appear to have been dashed by Sir Alex Ferguson's disinclination to release more than one Manchester United player for the London Games because of the club's preparations for next season.

Sources close to the Olympic team manager Stuart Pearce say he wanted to include Ferdinand in a 35-man squad submitted to Fifa on Friday (to be whittled down to 18 on 6 July) but because of Ferguson's stance has opted for Welshman Ryan Giggs as the lone United representative to enhance the "British" flavour of the eventual line-up.

Another Welsh star, Liverpool's Craig Bellamy, is believed to have been selected as one of the three permitted over-age players alongside, inevitably, David Beckham.

Ferdinand who said yesterday that he accepted his England career might be over after being controversially overlooked by Roy Hodgson for the European Championships, would have been a candidate, at 34, to captain the Olympic team despite once serving an eight-month suspension for missing a drugs test. But the armband now looks certain to be worn by Beckham to the delight of Games organisers who believe thousands of football tickets still available will be shifted because of his presence.

Old flame McGuigan snubbed

There is ire in Northern Ireland after favourite fighting son Barry McGuigan was snubbed as a torch bearer when the Olympic flame was carried there last week. The Ulster-born former sports minister Kate Hoey is not alone in saying she was shocked that the ex-world featherweight champion, 51, who boxed in the 1980 Olympics, wasn't asked "as he is an idol whose work for peace crossed both communities".

McGuigan says he is "disappointed," not least presumably, because it was another ex-boxer, the less-celebrated Wayne McCullough who carried the torch to the border. Perhaps the showbiz–struck organisers considered McGuigan no longer has the X-Factor, unlike twin trotters Jedward, who were handed the torch in Dublin where onlookers say it looked as if three flames were passing through the city simultaneously.

Cook sold down Rio

Kicked-in-the-teeth taekwondo star Aaron Cook may be right to draw a parallel between his now confirmed exclusion from the Olympics with that of Rio Ferdinand from Euro 2012. It seems no more for "taekwondo reasons" than Ferdinand's was for "football reasons". Choosing between the world No1 and a player ranked more than 50 places beneath him in his weight category ought to be a no-brainer.

In deciding otherwise GB Taekwondo's entrenched high command leave themselves open to the unsavoury charge of prejudice – payback time because Cook, 21, opted out of their system. After the British Olympic Association reluctantly felt bound to endorse the choice of relatively inexperienced Lutalo Muhammad, Cook's fight will continue in the courts. Should he lose there is nowhere else for him to go, except Rio 2014. But who is to say he won't be similarly jocked off then?

Robertson U-turn

Shortly after outlining his plans to go to Ukraine at a Ladbroke's Sports Journalists Association lunch last week the sports minister Hugh Robertson returned to his office to be told that Foreign Secretary William Hague had put the block on over the host country's human rights record. Because of other commitments Robertson had not planned to be at England's preliminary matches but he says he still thinks he might be there should they reach the final stages.

"The hope is that putting on this political pressure will force some movement by the Ukrainian government, particularly over Mrs Yulia Tymoshenko [the jailed opposition leader]. But if so there will be only one visit – we have to watch the budget!"