Castaway Gascoigne reveals snake terror before joining Italian reality show

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FILE PHOTO: Euro 2020 Qualifier - Group A - England v Montenegro

(Reuters) - Former England and Lazio footballer Paul Gascoigne used to terrify defenders in his playing days but now is fearful of confronting snakes when he starts life as a castaway on Italy's "Isola dei Famosi" (Celebrity Island) reality television show.

The 53-year-old will appear on the show, starting March 12 on Italian network Mediaset, which follows a similar format to the international hit "Survivor".

Celebrity contestants are challenged to survive on a deserted island with basic equipment, with one competitor being eliminated each week before the final few survivors compete to be named winner.

For Gascoigne, who is currently self-isolating in a Milan hotel before flying to Honduras to take part in the series, there is only one thing to be afraid of.

"Snakes. I'm terrified of them. Anything else I can take on," he told Italian daily Gazzetta dello Sport.

"I thought it would be a holiday, but now I've seen the format, I don't think it will be."

Gascoigne is a familiar and popular figure in Italy thanks to three injury-disrupted years at Serie A club Lazio between 1992 and 1995, a period he remembers fondly.

"I adored those fans. When I watch their matches, the chants come back to mind," he said.

"The Lazio fans were extraordinary with me. I had three and a half fantastic years in Rome, despite the injuries.

"The most beautiful memories are the goal I scored against (AS) Roma in the derby and the one against Pescara where I went past four defenders."

Gascoigne also won an FA Cup with Tottenham and two Scottish league titles at Rangers during his playing days, as well as starring in England's run to the semi-finals of the 1990 World Cup in Italy.

Other contestants on the show include comedian Beppe Braida, actor Roberto Ciufoli and model Carolina Stramare.

(Reporting by Alasdair Mackenzie; Editing by Christian Radnedge)