According to the Sydney Morning Herald, England striker Rooney was prevented from sharing more about his faith as he answered a question in an off-camera briefing about why he wears a cross and rosary beads around his neck outside of official matches. Rooney has often been seen sporting the religious items during training.
He told the newspaper: “I’ve been wearing them for about four years now and you don’t usually watch training (to see them). I obviously can’t wear them in games. It’s my religion.”
The newspaper reports that before another question could be asked, Mark Whittle, the Football Association’s head of media relations, interrupted by saying: “We don’t do religion.”
The parallels to Alastair Campbell’s “We don’t do God” remark will not be missed on Christians. The former director of strategy and communications interrupted then Prime Minister Tony Blair with the comment before he could reply to a question from a reporter about his Christian faith.
As England gears up for its must-win match against Algeria tonight, the pressure is on Rooney to score goals following England’s disappointing opening match against the USA last Saturday.
England captain Steven Gerrard said Rooney should be the team’s “top goal scorer” in the World Cup.
Manchester United teammate Gary Neville has come to the defence of Rooney in recent days amid the suggestion from some football pundits that he cannot handle the pressure of playing in the tournament and that his temperament could let the side down.
Writing in The Times, Neville said: “Wazza scraps, he fights and, just occasionally, that might land him in trouble. And it is very occasionally – he’s not been booked playing for England in a competitive match for two years and he’s been sent off once at Manchester United in the past four seasons.
“But what about the upsides? What about the desire, the drive, the courage, the boundless enthusiasm?
“Playing for England can crush players. I’ve seen it. I’m not sure there is anything that can crush Wayne.
“Character? I’m not sure I know a player less affected by mood or outside pressures. His form might fluctuate, like any footballer, but he always wants the ball, to get on with the game.”