Football Sport

The man called Rooney

Written by Pai Yao

This article first appeared in the May/Jun 2011 issue of World Gaming magazine.

Who is Wayne Rooney? It’s a question that has proven elusive for many. The media-shy, 25-year-old has been hammering footballs into the back of the net in the English Premier League (EPL) and on the international stage since 2003. EPL superstars, particularly those that hold the hopes of Manchester United must expect to have their private lives turned into a soap opera, which is exactly the fate of Rooney.

David Beckham was the quintessential English football pin up boy. He looked just as comfortable posing in a pair of Calvin Klein boxer shorts as he did leading his beloved United out onto the sacred turf of Old Tra!ord. His chiselled face, three-day growth and his Spice Girl wife complemented his ability to make the ball dip and swerve from outside the penalty box. The EPL had become the world league and ‘Becks’ was the perfect face to lead the product.

Early on the heir-apparent to that throne was touted as Wayne Rooney but something didn’t quite fit. These days a modern day football star, just like our politicians, needs to ooze charisma in order to warm the hearts of the fans and more importantly the press. Rooney was a dumpy, pale Catholic boy from Liverpool who simply loved playing football. He played his junior football for Everton and on his first outing he scored the match-winning goal against League Champions, Arsenal. This made him the youngest scorer ever in the EPL. No 17-year-old had ever shown that level of mental or physical maturity and the future for the young superstar looked more than rosy.

The first problem was that Everton could not hold on to their prodigy. Manchester United flexed their muscles in a staggering bidding war which saw the young Rooney head up the highway to the biggest football club on the planet. In modern day sport athletes chase the big dollars and this is commonly accepted. After all, Beckham spent more time playing football overseas than he did for United and he still has his reputation intact. Unfortunately for Rooney, he ran headlong into quite a di!erent public reaction despite making the right decision. In the early 2000’s when public sentiment turned against the big four clubs who dominated the League with their cheque books, somehow the 18-year-old shouldered a good deal of that resentment.

On the field it didn’t take Rooney long to make his mark at Old Tra!ord. The weight of expectation in playing for Manchester United in the EPL is unmatched in world football where a poor season can see you quickly traded away. Rooney has had his fair share of injuries, incidents and goal droughts but he keeps putting the ball in the back of the net.

It isn’t all smooth sailing for the striker though as he constantly battles off field with the British press who are hungry for a whipping boy. Like many United superstars before him Rooney has had his share of public run-ins with Sir Alex Ferguson. The Manchester manager stated in October 2010 that Rooney wished to leave the club. Rooney then came out and publicly stated that he was unhappy. There was much speculation about these strange comments and only a few days later Rooney signed a new five year deal with the club. Critics suggested that Rooney orchestrated the stunt to increase the size of the deal. Whichever way you look at it United were determined to see Rooney remain a Red Devil until 2015.

Rooney was the youngest player ever to play for England when he earned his first cap back in 2003 at the age of 17. At this stage he hasn’t been the force that England has been praying for. He was plagued by injury prior to the 2006 World Cup and never looked like a threat up front. In 2006 he had his excuses but his failure to make an impact in South Africa in 2010 left him open to deserved criticism. He even got into trouble with his fans after criticising those who booed the English team o! the pitch after a lacklustre draw against Algeria. Algeria was expected to be an easy scalp for the English and those that had spent large sums of money to cheer on their team deserved more than they got. However, Rooney’s main advantage at this stage is that time is still on the young man’s side and don’t be surprised if he wins a major tournament for England in the future.

Rooney’s personal life has provided juicy fodder for the savage English tabloids. He married his high school sweetheart, Colleen in 2008 but he has been linked to numerous women including prostitutes over the years and Rooney even admitted to soliciting working girls back in 2004 claiming that he was “young and stupid”. He has had a couple of legal battles against tabloid papers and has been embroiled in numerous other fiascos from management problems to getting his hands on the domain name waynerooney. com. No one could argue that it is not hard work being hounded by the press, but playing football and earning millions of pounds means there is no choice but to face up to the public eye.

The most important thing for Rooney is that he keeps playing great football. Manchester United (and possibly the New York Yankees) are the sporting world’s equivalent of Coca Cola or McDonalds. United is a worldwide brand name and Rooney is the man who is expected to win games. Football immortality awaits Rooney if he can continue to put the ball in the back of the old onion bag.