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'Fit Rooney trump card for England'

Being in UK at present, it's illegal not to follow soccer, writes Aakash Chopra.

india Updated: May 25, 2006 02:01 IST

Like any other kid, I loved to play football. But as I grew up, it was brought home to me very quickly that I wasn't about to become the next Maradona. In any case, cricket was around to drown my sorrows in, so I made peace with my footy shortcomings and restricted myself to playing football just for fun.

After suffering two major injuries at crucial times in my cricketing career (one resulting in an almost career-threatening knee surgery), my enthusiasm for playing the game faded completely. I still immensely enjoy watching the sport and frankly, when it comes to watching sport, football is in a league of its own.

I never had any favourite team except when Diego Maradona was playing for Argentina, at that time he was God and we were all acolytes.

At the moment, being in England at this time of the year, it's almost illegal not to follow the sport religiously. It would be sacrilege to say you don't know what's happening. And forget about pretending, people here breathe football. So I'm also completely hooked on to the idiot box whenever two decent teams are competing in that 90 minutes dash, whatever the level.

With World Cup around the corner, the anticipation and the enthusiasm is obviously at an all time high. One in two cars here is sporting the Saint George's Cross and while I'm not doing that, with my survival instincts keenly honed, I'm also supporting the England team.

Honestly, I'm not too sure of what their chances will be but if Wayne Rooney is fit and the likes of Lampard, Gerrard and Beckham fire, I'm sure England would be a tough nut to crack. My heart is with them though the mind still says it's going to be Brazil once again.

The good news for England is that they won't be meeting Brazil before the last stage, if they get there. I'm keeping my fingers crossed like the rest of the country (they're even keeping their toes crossed!) hoping that England makes it big this time and brings the Cup back home after ages.

First Published: May 25, 2006 01:49 IST