Seven time Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher has apparently turned down the chance to make his UEFA Champions League debut, having been offered the chance to play in the opening round of this year's competition.

An avid football fan, Schumacher has so far confined his competitive outings for FC Echichens to the lower divisions of the Swiss national league, but has apparently been asked whether he would be available to play for San Marino champions SS Murata against Swedish counterparts FC Gothenburg in next week's first qualifying round.

Murata have won back-to-back trophy doubles in the tiny landlocked republic, and pulled off a major coup by attracting former Brazilian international Aldair into the fold for last year's Champions League campaign. After an early exit at the hands of Finnish team Tampere United, coach Massimo Agostini has attempted to strengthen his squad for this season's competition, with Schumacher being joined on the wanted list by another Brazilian World Cup winner, Romario.

However, it appears that hopes of either playing may have already foundered, with 42-year old Romario claiming that it would be inappropriate for him to turn out so soon after his father's death

"The chances of seeing Romario in our jersey are around 70 per cent," Murata's sporting director Denis Casadei told Italy's ANSA news service earlier this week, "However, on 23 May, his father died and he told Aldair that he didn't feel it was right to leave everyone to come and play. It is a shame because we were close to this dream.

"Schumacher is a lot more difficult. To say the opposite would suggest we only wanted publicity. Instead, what interests us is what happens on the pitch and Romario seems to us to be a great reinforcement, and we shouldn't forget Aldair, who will be with us for the second consecutive year."

Schumacher has long been a keen footballer, having trained with some of the top clubs in Europe and turned out for Swiss third division side FC Echichens between grands prix and charity soccer matches.

"I don't think we'll manage to get them, but it would certainly be a pleasure to be able to count on them," coach Massimo Agostini told Italian sports daily Gazzetta dello Sport, "It would be something that would also give prestige to the squad and San Marino. We will therefore try, knowing that we also have to take into account the bureaucracy, maybe to have them only for the return leg."

Murata play the first leg of their tie with Gothenburg on 15 July, with the return match eight days later. All teams have to present their squad list for the match by next Tuesday.