Wanted: a sparring partner for Wayne

Wayne Rooney keeps badgering his good friend, the WBA welterweight world champion boxer Ricky Hatton, to come and spar with him in his Manchester gym. But, for the moment, he has to make do with goalkeeper David James.

"He keeps joking that he's going to come for some sparring with me. But he'll need to ask his mum and dad's permission first! He wants to make (the fight) for the belt but I'm not sure it will fit around his waist!"

Speed freaks

It would be intriguing to see which player would win a sprint over 100 metres. England's starlet Theo Walcott would certainly be in the final alongside Thierry Henry — and at least one Arsenal player reckons he is even faster than the Frenchman.

Also in the 100m final would be Germany's substitute David Odonkor, who turned the match against Poland in the hosts' favour when he came on to earn his second cap. Borussia Dortmund claim the 22-year-old runs the 100m in 10.7 seconds.

Ghanaian at heart

Talking of Odonkor, his Ghanaian father John will host a party for fans of the Ghana national side at the end of the World Cup. Odonkor senior is supporting his son and Germany but said: "After the World Cup I will host a party for the Ghanaians. I hope David will come."

Friends matter, after all

Given his lack of goals when he played for them Serhiy Rebrov is not too fondly remembered by the fans of either Tottenham or West Ham. But the feeling is certainly not mutual, as the Ukraine striker, now with Dynamo Kiev, has promised to follow both sides' UEFA Cup campaigns closely next season.

The 32-year-old said: "I will support them both in Europe next season. I still have a lot of friends at West Ham but not Tottenham because the team has changed so much.

"I am still in touch with Teddy Sheringham, Hayden Mullins, Nigel Reo-Coker, Bobby Zamora, everyone. I also saw the FA Cup final against Liverpool and they were so unlucky."

Increasing viewership

The United States' slowly-developing passion for the World Cup appears to be getting warmer.

ESPN2's viewing figures were an average 1.75 million per game. Not huge but up 206% on the previous World Cup while Univision, the Spanish-speaking channel, claimed an average of 2.5 million.

ABC enjoyed 2.7 million viewers for England's opener against Paraguay and Mexico's defeat of Iran.

Surprisingly, however, both matches were eclipsed by the 2.9 million who were thrilled by Trinidad and Tobago's scoreless draw with Sweden.

Thanking Israeli fans

Ghana defender John Pantsil has explained why he waved an Israeli flag as his personal celebration of the stunning victory over the Czech Republic. Pantsil plays for Hapoel Tel Aviv, and previously appeared for Maccabi Tel Aviv, and wanted to show his appreciation for the fans back in the Israeli capital.

He had kept a small flag bearing the Star of David down his sock and waved around in joy at the final whistle.

"I like the supporters in Israel very much so I decided to get the flag out for them," said Pantsil.

He would certainly have won the hearts of the 1,200 protesters who held a demonstration calling for Iran president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to be prevented from entering Germany to watch his country play.

Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust happened and questions Israel's right to exist.

Two is the number

Talking of Iran, number two is not only the number on Mehdi Mahdavikia's shirt but also the number of women he is married to. There was widespread controversy back in February after it was confirmed by the Iran star's club, Hamburg, that he was married to two women who lived only a couple of miles away from each other in the German city.

In black and white

Pope Benedict XVI is watching the World Cup on an old black and white television, according to German weekly Bild am Sonntag. The 79-year-old pontiff, a German, watches the matches on an old 1970s TV on the roof garden of the block where the Pope has his private apartment.

The Pope, a Bayern Munich fan, is nonetheless not as keen on the beautiful game as his predecessor Pope John Paul II, who was a goalkeeper in his youth and a Wisla Krakow fan.

Dull DJ

Gerald Asamoah's self-appointed position as the official DJ of the German squad has not gone down well with the older members of team. The Schalke striker keeps playing hip-hop and R&B songs which go down well with the younger players but the veterans are now threatening to mutiny.

"It is time for him to come up with something new because his music gets boring," said Torsten Frings.

Michael Ballack added. "We, the older players, just give in. For me it is still okay but for Oli Kahn... he just cuts himself off and listens to quiet music on his iPod."

Harassed by the hacks

If there is a prize for the most harassed man at the World Cup, then Brazilian media chief Rodrigo Paiva must be a contender. At a specially arranged international press conference for the superstar that is Ronaldinho, Paiva provided just as much entertainment as the brilliant Barcelona player, as he tried to direct the microphone to hopeful journalists wanting to ask a question.

In the end, with petty arguments breaking out, Paiva took the wisest course of action. He threw his arms in the air in exasperation and let the hacks get on with it.

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