Cabin Fever a Tough foe for World Cup Teams

Johannesburg, Jul 1 (DPA) Sex, safaris, siestas, golf, and for want of anything better - PlayStation.

The remaining eight teams at the football World Cup in South Africa are - when it comes to killing time, at least - already champions.

Avoiding cabin fever is imperative. The winner of the coveted gold trophy could very well be the team with the most effective diversions during the month-long tournament.

No matter how thrilling the matches are, boredom constantly lurks afterwards. Daily routines of World Cup participants are nearly as monotonous as a stay in a sanatorium.

"Breakfast, training, lunch, bed, dinner, bed" -- is how England's Wayne Rooney described his typical World Cup day.

In the South African winter, darkness falls as early as 5:30 p.m. Nights are mostly cool. And strict security keeps players from going out on the town spontaneously.

"Our coach (Gerardo Martino) prepared us for being locked up for seven weeks," remarked Paraguay striker Nelson Valdez.

The German team have gone on two safaris already. Players' girlfriends and wives are ensconced in a Pretoria hotel. And each player received a World Cup entertainment packet containing a laptop computer, PlayStation and digital camera.

"On the whole, the team's mood is very good," said German midfielder Sami Khedira in describing the cloistered existence of the German squad in their quarters at the Velmore Grande Hotel, near Pretoria.

For some teams, further diversion is provided in the form of home cinema, table tennis and quad bikes.

The Greeks, according to their striker Angelos Charisteas, relied on backgammon tournaments and card games. They folded in the group stage.

Being cooped up together did not agree with France, runners-up in 2006. They were riven with dissension and crashed out of the South African edition without having won a match. The fiasco has become an affair of state.

Rooney, whose disappointing World Cup performance matched that of his team, may have been undone partly by boredom.

"Sitting round... Lying in bed at two in the afternoon, that's quite boring," said Rooney, who at times looked uninterested even while on the pitch.

Mercifully, Rooney did not have to suffer long. England's 1-4 thrashing by Germany ensured they were eliminated in the Round of 16.

Five-times world champions Brazil have been in South Africa since May 27. They hope - and pray - that they will stay to the very end of the World Cup on July 11. Which is one reason why Kaka, Lucio and other players of the Selecao spend a lot of their free time praying.

They are no chaste saints, however. Some of them, like forward Robinho, have found lodgings for their wives near the team's five-star Hotel Fairway, just outside Johannesburg.

Brazil coach Carlos Dunga said players could decide for themselves what they did in private. "Not everyone wants sex," he added.

Vicente del Bosque, Spain's skipper, has been giving his charges time off until 6 p.m. on days after matches. Some of the players have gone on safaris, strolled around the academic city of Potchefstroom or simply hung out at the campus of North-West University.

Argentina coach Diego Maradona, who captained his country's 1986 World Cup champions, always gives his players the second day after a match off. The hard-living Argentine hero knows perhaps better than anyone that footballers have a life off the pitch - and also need it.


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