Wayne Rooney has been warned he risks being sent off in the World Cup should he repeat the tirade of abusive language launched at the referee in last night's warm-up game against Platinum Stars.
The England striker was shamed into issuing a post-match apology to the local official Jeff Selogilwe, handing him his No. 10 shirt as recompense, after shouting “fuck you” at the referee early in the second half. Rooney had been on the pitch only for a few minutes, but was already incensed that a series of niggly fouls committed by Kagiso Senamela and the former Tottenham Hotspur defender Mbulelo Mabizela had gone unpunished.
The USA, England’s first opponents on Saturday, have already suggested they might play on Rooney’s perceived fragile temperament with this an indication that the player can be on edge. “Rooney insulted me,” said Selogilwe. “He said: ‘Fuck you.’ He is a good player when you see him on the television, but when you see him on the pitch he just keeps on insulting the referee.
“To me, it looks like Rooney insults people and fouls other players. If he insults a referee like me, then he will use that vulgar language to other referees as well. He must learn to control his temper. He could get sent off in the World Cup, especially if he uses this kind of language.
“Maybe the England players undermined this game and thought: ‘This is just a friendly, we can do what we like and the referees are not that professional.’ I was very disappointed in Rooney because he is my favourite player, but he will still be my favourite player. He apologised to me and gave me the shirt he was wearing at the end.”
Rooney was dismissed in his last appearance at the World Cup finals, against Portugal in the quarter-final at Germany 2006, for kicking out at Ricardo Carvalho though his disciplinary record has improved as he has matured in the years since.
He was booked only eight times last season, and has not been sent off since Manchester United's Premier League game at Fulham in March 2009. Indeed, he went through England's entire qualification campaign for South Africa without being cautioned.
However, his temper notoriously flares when frustration builds and, having missed the end of the domestic campaign with an ankle injury first sustained in the Champions League quarter-final at Bayern Munich and aggravated thereafter, Mabizela's attentions were clearly not welcome.