England captain Steven Gerrard and star striker Wayne Rooney have pulled out of a planned soccer skills show, saying their participation would have been “inappropriate” following their dismal showing at the World Cup.
The players would have earned £500,000 each for the two-hour A:3K Football event at London’s O2 arena on 17 July in which they would participate in “a gladiatorial skills-based challenge” against the likes of Chelsea striker Didier Drogba, Arsenal captain Cesc Fabregas and Cristiano Ronaldo of Real Madrid.
“Both Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney have made it clear they believe it would be inappropriate for them to participate in A:3K at this time,” said Terry Byrne, a director of A:3K, in a statement on its website.
The event has now been postponed until next year when the absence of an international tournament for England to fail dismally at should mean they can appear with reputations intact. “We fully understand and respect both players’ decisions,” said Mr Byrne. We could have replaced them with two other players but feel the players involved are six of the best in the world – and that is what we promised we would deliver.”
The players’ withdrawal comes after England won just one of their four games in South Africa, scoring two goals before a humilating exit in a 4-1 defeat to Germany. Rooney in particular has been heavily criticised for not reproducing his club form after a season in which he scored a career-best 34 goals for Manchester United.
A:3K said those who had bought tickets for the event could claim a full refund or keep their tickets for next year.
“As a football fan I totally understand and respect Steven and Wayne’s decision to postpone their involvement in A:3K until next year,” said Rob Hallett, President of International for AEG Live, the event promoters. “We look forward to hosting the event at the O2 Arena on the rescheduled date in June 2011.”