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Olympics: British footballers battling apathy

sports Updated: Jul 25, 2012 16:20 IST
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Britain's footballers are battling widespread apathy about their Olympic campaign - but coach Stuart Pearce is convinced it will turn around as soon as the action starts on Thursday.

A press conference held by Pearce and skipper Ryan Giggs on Tuesday at Old Trafford saw just seven reporters in attendance, a far cry from the dozens who normally throng the home of Manchester United for major matches.

When greeted by the low turnout, Pearce joked to journalists: "We could have done this in my bedroom."

However the former England international - who courted controversy by omitting David Beckham from Britain's 18-man squad - believes the perception of Olympic football as an inferior tournament will change.

Britain's opening game against Senegal will be viewed by a crowd of around 70,000 on Thursday, while other teams such as Brazil and Spain are laced with stars such as Neymar and Juan Mata.

Pearce, also the manager of the England Under-20 team, believes once fans see the talent on show, interest will take hold.

"If I roll the clock back a calendar year, I was fortunate to go with England to Colombia for the Under-20s World Cup," he said.

"We played a group match against Argentina in front of 44,000 people. The standard was fantastic, the tournament and the exposure were fantastic. Very few people in England knew there was a tournament going on."

"That is how we underestimate tournaments. The same will apply to the Olympics. Once it gets started and they see the magnitude of the teams, the professionalism and the standard of football they will see, they will sit up and take notice," said Pearce.