Determined to avoid any distraction at the World Cup, Fabio Capello decreed on Thursday that the England players’ partners, the WAGs who fixated the media at the 2006 tournament in Germany, will enjoy only limited access to their loved ones in South Africa.
No plans have yet been made over how to accommodate the WAGs, particularly not by a Football Association still recovering from Baden-Baden, but it is expected that the players’ agents may organise a base in somewhere like Mauritius. This will be a holiday camp and a holding camp for the families before they fly in for games and then 24 hours of R & R sanctioned by Capello.
Although his Italian compatriots had contact with their partners in Germany, and went on to win the World Cup, Capello looked horrified when the picture was painted of the Baden-Baden circus, when the high-profile spouses of David Beckham, Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney headed out from their Brenner’s Park hotel pursued by photographers.
It was all pretty harmless, of course, a reflection as much on the interests of the modern media, but the WAGs’ presence soon proved a stick with which to beat Sven-Goran Eriksson’s under-performing squad. There will be no repeat.
“No, no, no, absolutely not,’’ spluttered Capello. “Tut, tut, tut. Please. The players will have one day with the girls and friends. One day after each game. That is enough. If the girls do not want to come for the day, then they should stay home.”
England are effectively reverting to France 98 rules, when Glenn Hoddle allowed partners visiting rights only for 24 hours after games. Little, if no comment, was made about the WAGs in 1998 or 2002.
A few of Capello’s squad have children of school age, like Gerrard’s daughters, so their partners may not wish to skip term anyway next June and early July. Many of the younger partners will head out to South Africa, partly because they believe the weather will be good, or because they think it will be fun. Capello sounded pretty dismissive. “We are there to play, not for a holiday.’’
South Africa will be very different to Germany because of security and geography. England will be off the beaten track, possibly holed up in Rustenburg, away from the delights of Cape Town’s restaurants and Durban’s beaches.
Capello did acknowledge the benign influence of the fairer sex when discussing Rooney’s improvement in discipline. “I think it is after his 'matrimonials’,’’ said Capello, insisting his striker was more controlled. “Yes, he is not the same player. Sometimes he made some terrible tackles.’’
In preparing for South Africa, Capello confirmed that England will play Brazil, possibly in Doha, in November as part of his plan to test his players in the toughest friendlies possible.