Dozens of paparazzi, reporters and soccer fans waited for several hours at Ben-Gurion Airport on Monday night to welcome Wayne Rooney and his new wife Coleen.
The couple, who were married last week in Portofino, Italy, were said to have been flying to Israel for a post-wedding stag night for Rooney at the Apartment 98 Club in Tel Aviv’s Dizengoff Street.
He was thought to have been planning to celebrate with friends and team-mates. A large number of English football stars were supposedly due to stay at the David InterContinental Hotel while attending the party organised by Pini Zahavi, the agent of Manchester United and England defender Rio Ferdinand.
The Israeli agent had supposedly invited 30 Israeli women to party with the footballers.
Sadly for the press and fans, Mr and the new Mrs Rooney failed to show. It remains unclear whether the non-existent stag night was an elaborate hoax or a genuine plan that failed to materialise — either because Mr Rooney changed his mind or his new wife put her foot down.
There was not complete disappointment at the airport, however, when Rio Ferdinand appeared at close to midnight along with Mr Zahavi.
Outside Tel Aviv’s Apartment 98, the news of Rooney’s no-show soon spread but fans continued to hang around in hope. Many later rushed across the city with the paparazzi when they heard that Ferdinand was at the Uptown Club in Tel Aviv Port.
Liran Hyman, 23, said: “Rio gave me a hug when he saw my Manchester United shirt and my United tattoo, but it’s a shame that Wayne didn’t come.”
One photographer later claimed that friends of Ferdinand, who was with his brother, West ham defender Anton, assaulted him as they left the club at 5.30am. Elad Dayan said: “Rio was in no way involved in what happened and looked shocked by what they did to me. I called police. But I will not be lodging a complaint after the two men agreed to replace my damaged equipment.”
Ferdinand was reportedly furious about reports in the Israeli media suggesting that he was questioned by police over the matter. Mr Zahavi claims that he had to persuade the player not to take the next flight back to London.
One piece of good news: Ferdinand insisted to the JC that Manchester United fans can relax. His team-mate Cristiano Ronaldo is “definitely” not leaving the club for Real Madrid.
He said: “I love Israel, I love Tel Aviv, and I love everything about being here.”
The David InterContinental Hotel and the owners of Apartment 98 refused to comment.