LONDON: England internationals Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney avoided a potential public relations disaster after an organiser said the duo had withdrawn from a soccer skills event.
The pair were set to compete in a series of challenges against the likes of Cesc Fabregas, Cristiano Ronaldo, Didier Drogba and David Villa at London`s 02 Arena on July 17.
Billed as a "gladiatorial skills-based challenge" featuring black Astroturf and sound and light shows, the competition was due to take place on July 17, six days after the World Cup final.
But Gerrard and Rooney, as well as Ivory Coast`s Drogba and Portugal captain Ronaldo, have been eliminated from the World Cup.
Villa may have been one of the World Cup`s leading players but Spanish compatriot Fabregas has been largely confined to a bench role.
With England having been widely criticised for a lack of technical ability in their 4-1 loss to Germany in the last 16 on Sunday, the potential pitfalls for Rooney and Gerrard were especially acute.
Terry Byrne, director of the A:3K event, told the Daily Mail: "Both Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney have made it clear they believe it would be inappropriate for them to participate 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."
BDST: 2046hrs, June 30, 2010