England duo out of skills challenge

WAYNE Rooney and Steven Gerrard have withdrawn from a lucrative skills showcase on the grounds that their involvement would be “inappropriate” in light of England’s World Cup performance.

The A:3K Football event at London’s O2 Arena scheduled for July 17 has been postponed until next summer because of their decision to pull out.

The England duo were due to compete in a series of head-to-head challenges billed as a “gladiatorial skills-based challenge” alongside Cesc Fabregas, Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba and David Villa.

But it’s now been abandoned for this year, just a day after Fabio Capello’s team returned from South Africa amid a torrent of criticism. They exited the World Cup with a 4-1 last-16 defeat to Germany, the nadir of a dire month that saw them win one match out of four.

Rooney was a huge disappointment throughout while Gerrard, the captain, suffered from being played out of position.

Terry Byrne, director of A:3K, said: “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. We fully understand and respect both players’ decisions. 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.

“Having consulted all parties involved, everyone agreed the only decision possible was to postpone the event until next summer when we intend to deliver the same six player line-up.”

Rooney and Gerrard were reportedly being paid £500,000 each for the two-hour appearance.

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