Sport on TV: Rooney's urchins look to leave their mark on road to riches
Sunday 14 December 2008
Was it a disclaimer for 'Wayne Rooney's Street Striker' (Sky One, Sunday) or Manchester United's Champions' League tie against Aalborg? It was hard to tell. "The challenges in this programme took place in a strictly controlled environment managed by the competition's organisers," it said. The Aalborg goalie might beg to differ. "Do not attempt to copy them." Not unless you're throwing a few shapes while dancing on top of a drunk at the Christmas party. Not if you don't want to get sent off.
Rooney is looking for the best street footballer in the country, and the winner of tonight's final will be sent to an international training camp in Brazil. Rooney says the street taught him skill and speed. It seems he also learnt how to "look after himself" on the estates of Croxteth.
It is ironic that Travis, one of the few contestants who plays for a proper team, should say: "Being on the streets is not a good thing, a lot of people are getting murdered." For these 24 lads, football represents a way out of degradation and depravity, off the very streets where they can actually stand out from the crowd.
The second trial was held on a street of classic 'Coronation Street' terraced houses in Salford, but appropriately all the windows were boarded up with signs saying "All materials of value have been removed", and the roofs of abandoned cars acted as springboards for the young player's vaunting ambitions as they stood atop them trying to hit the ball into a moving dustcart.
Rooney dreaded dashing their hopes and was shy in front of the camera in a way that he never could be on the pitch. Super-confident Kabir probably summed up the spirit of the street best. "Having good skill means you can play elegantly, you can just express yourself. You become more confident and you feel you have more responsibility to play well. When you watch Rooney, that's what he does." He probably said it better than Wazza could ever have done. Kabir didn't get through to the last half a dozen, but he would make a great pundit.
Rooney's own experience was: "We used to play across the main road. There was a sign off the road on the other side and we'd have five goes each and see how many times we could hit it." It's lucky that everyone's car was up on bricks at the time or someone might have got hurt. But it seems that Rooney might have picked up a bit of road rage in the process.
* The first Test in Chennai has been notable for all sorts of reasons, the least obvious of which is that the fans are allowed to vote for their favourite commentator of the day. It came as a surprise that Laxman Sivaramakrishnan should be polling so many votes, since he verges on the unlistenable. It's even more shocking when you think the votes are cast by text.
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