With matchup vs. U.S.A. looming in World Cup opener, English soccer star Bridge quits team after teammate has affair with his girl

Photo by Anthony Devlin

Photo by Anthony Devlin

LONDON -- Wayne Bridge is refusing to play for England in the wake of teammate John Terry's alleged affair with his former partner, saying Thursday that his presence in the World Cup squad could be "divisive."

Coach Fabio Capello expected Bridge to continue playing for England after stripping Terry of the captaincy when details of the Chelsea defender's affair with Vanessa Perroncel were published.

But Bridge's announcement, two days after Capello suggested the two could play together, left the coach with problems over selection and team harmony three months before England travels to South Africa.

"I was flying back from Milan when Wayne Bridge announced that he would not be with us for the Egypt match and also in South Africa for the World Cup," Capello said. "It surprised me, but I respect the decision of all the players. But the door is always open for him.

"We have time. There is still three months until I will decide my final squad for South Africa. I hope that Wayne Bridge will be with us."

After weeks of lurid headlines about his players, including starting left back Ashley Cole, Capello spoke Tuesday of the need to restore unity in the locker room. But Bridge is apparently unable to forge a professional relationship with Terry.

"I have thought long and hard about my position in the England football team in the light of the reporting and events over the last few weeks," Bridge said in a statement. "It has always been an honor to play for England. However, after careful thought I believe my position in the squad is now untenable and potentially divisive."

The rift could be on display Saturday when the pair come face-to-face during the pre-match formalities at Stamford Bridge when Manchester City plays Chelsea, the club Bridge left in 2009.

Terry's continuing presence in the England team also could cause friction with teammates aware the defender's alleged affair with the mother of Bridge's child forced his one-time friend to miss out on a major tournament.

"I feel for the sake of the team and in order to avoid what will be inevitable distractions, I have decided not to put myself forward for selection," Bridge said. "I have today informed the management of this decision. I wish the team all the very best in South Africa."

The Professional Footballers' Association tried to heal the rift between the former teammates.

"The PFA offered to help and contacted both parties with a view to acting as mediators, but neither came back to us," PFA chief executive Gordon Taylor said. "I am surprised and saddened that this matter could not be resolved. I would have hoped that things could have been patched up for the sake of the professional careers of both Wayne and John Terry, as well as the England team."

The Football Association backed Capello to ensure the fallout from the Terry-Bridge saga doesn't affect the squad at the World Cup.

"I believe that (Capello) has increased his footballing perception around the world as a great manager because ultimately a good decision on the matter (sacking Terry) was reached," FA chief executive Ian Watmore told Talk Sport radio. "If you want to have great team spirit then you need someone who can manage that and we have the world's best in Fabio dealing with these difficult decisions.

"Fabio has to judge what's best for team spirit. We won't win in South Africa if we don't have that. But we should have confidence that we will have it and move on."

An immediate issue for Capello is filling the left back slot for Wednesday's exhibition against Egypt, Cole recovering from a broken ankle and uncertain whether he will be fit for England's World Cup opener against the United States on June 12.

Capello will use Wednesday's match to audition others in the position. The likeliest candidates are Leighton Baines and Stephen Warnock.

Baines has yet to play for the national team but has impressed for Everton this season, while Warnock's international experience amounts to six minutes as a substitute against Trinidad and Tobago in June 2008.