Soccer stars relax by playing soccer

When Jozy Altidore isn’t playing soccer, he’s playing video soccer. As himself.

IRENE, South Africa — When Jozy Altidore isn’t playing soccer, he’s playing video soccer. As himself.

In their down time, some guys on World Cup squads are playing FIFA 10 and 2010 FIFA World Cup, video games developed in Canada by EA Sports.

Altidore thinks about using his first pick on Lionel Messi, the reigning world player of the year. But he can’t quite go through with the selection.

“I play as myself as lot, actually,” the American forward said. “It’s fun to see yourself in the game. It’s pretty cool. These guys try to play FIFA 09, FIFA 10. They try. I am the undisputed champion. I will hold a tournament called the Jozy Altidore FIFA tournament soon and take all challengers. ”

The American team plays FIFA 10 at the Irene Country Lodge when they’re not having meetings or meals. It seems that to get away from soccer, players gravitate to a computer game of soccer.

“I am going to put this out there right now. At night, I kill time by thrashing Jozy Altidore and Maurice Edu in FIFA’s 2010,” defender Oguchi Onyewu said. “You can put that in the headlines. They can’t compete with me.”

While Altidore views himself as king of the video screen, not so fast, tweeted teammate Stuart Holden.

“Waiting for (at)jozyaltidore17 to stop being scared and play me in a game of FIFA in the lounge downstairs!!” he wrote.

It’s not just an American pastime. Kaka, the Brazilian star voted 2007 FIFA player of the year, tweets about playing the game, which is available on multiple formats, including PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Nintendo Wii. The designers have worked with English striker Wayne Rooney and Brazil’s Ronaldinho, the 2004 and 2005 world player of the year, to make the action more realistic. Ronaldinho wanted specific tricks included in his doppelganger.

Altidore does have some quibbles with his icon.

“Looks-wise I’m not happy with myself,” he said. “I thought I’m a little bit prettier than that.”

Still, he does appreciate Messi, who sticks out for his short size on the video screen as much as he’s noticed on the real field.

“Messi’s like a juggernaut in video games,” Altidore said. “He just runs around so fast with the ball. You can’t stop him. Kind of like real life.”