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An Interview With Arguably the Best Defender in the World

 

Wednesday, August 22, 2007.

 

Armed with elegance, pace and an incredible reading of the game, Rio Ferdinand is undoubtedly one of the finest defenders in world football or soccer as our American cousins will call it.

The 28 year-old South London-born star burst onto the English Premiership scene with West Ham United under the guidance of Harry Redknapp before being snapped up by Leeds United for £18million in November 2000.

The 2002 World Cup provided Rio with the stage to make the transformation from budding talent to accomplished defender, and his performances in Japan convinced Sir Alex Ferguson to part with a massive £30million.

 

Although, initially hampered by injury and loss of form, Ferdinand found his feet towards the end of his first season, as United came back from the dead to overtake Arsenal and win their fifteenth League title.

In September 2003 disaster struck. The defender missed a routine drugs test and, despite appealing, was banned from football for eight months in January 2004.

Since returning from his suspension, Ferdinand has consistently justified his tag as a world-class defender. He also rediscovered his goal touch, most dramatically with an injury-time winner against Liverpool in January 2006.

 

Ferdinand is actively involved with charity work in England and Africa.  It is also reported that he is presently working on a documentary about the murder of schoolboy Damilola Taylor. Ferdinand grew up close to the South London estate where the 10-year-old was killed in 2000. The programme is the first in a series to be fronted by Ferdinand to persuade Black boys away from a life of crime

 

 

On his musical tastes

Interviewer: What do you like music-wise?

 

Ferdinand: New Kids on the Block is a classic seriously. It's on my iPod now anyway. I don't care what people might say about that. And the Bad album by Michael Jackson. I remember sitting in my dad's rocking chair, I remember, just reciting every single lyric. I knew every word. And that was one of the best albums I've ever had. Great album.'

Interviewer: Did you used to dance in front of your mirror and pretend you were Michael Jackson?

Ferdinand: Yeah I don't care. Definitely. 100 percent yeah. Definitely.

On Big Money in Football and Manchester United

 

Interviewer: Do you think you are worth the £30 million price tag

Ferdinand: Who knows? Who knows how much someone is worth? Who's worth a million? Do you know what I mean? So to say if I'm worth it or not I don’t know. You'll have to ask the board. But as I said I don't think anyone is worth that kind of money. I think the money in football today is crazy. But I'm just fortunate and blessed I'm in this industry and I'm I thank God every morning I wake up and that I can go to work. Go for a job that I actually enjoy.

Interviewer: What do you think of Sir Alex Ferguson managerial skills and being shouted at by him?

Ferdinand: Oh he's brilliant. I think you hear all the stories about him having the hairdryer and stuff and I've been on the end of a couple.

Interviewer: What is the hairdryer for people who don't know?

Ferdinand: Oh it's just that he's so passionate about football. His passion just runs throughout the whole of Manchester United football club.  And if he doesn't see you performing to the level that you should be in a
Man United shirt then you're going to find out about it whether it be during a game or at half time or at full time or in training. You're going to find out about it. And he lets you know in no uncertain terms there's no pussyfooting around subjects or issues.

 

You know that when you finish in the conversation with the manager you know that you're going to up your game
in the next game or the next training session or in the next half. So it's good. I'm not somebody who is someone who says I shouldn't be shouted at or I can't take being shouted at. I mean I like if I'm not doing something
to be told what I'm doing and how to improve it and so it's great for me.


He's a great manager. His experience is unbelievable. Second to none probably. And whatever he says normally goes.

Interviewer: How many times has he shouted at you
Rio?

Ferdinand: A good few times for different reasons in footballing terms. But as I say that's part and parcel of being a footballer. I think anyone who says they've not been shouted at other than Paul Scholes is probably lying.

 

Paul Scholes can't be shouted at. He's too good to be shouted at.  Do you know what I mean so you just don't say anything to him.

 

You just say Paul you do this and that's it. But everyone gets shouted at. There are no favourites and that's the sign of a great manager. If he's got favouritism in the in the camp then the players will sniff it out and there will be unrest in the camp.

Interviewer: What do you think of group showers? 
I think that's really weird that you all get in the baths together.


Ferdinand: But lads are lads, isn't it? They not going to sit there and ogle each other are we or have a little?

Interviewer: Not even a quick look?

Ferdinand: No it's just it's just not happening is it?

Interviewer: Don't know. Do you not like compare?

Ferdinand: LAUGHING ... don't be silly. You go in there to have a shower and you have a talk and you have a laugh and stuff like that. But it's common knowledge that as I said back in the day there were big baths. There's not so much now to be honest with you with all the new nice baths after a game and stuff like that. So people get in ice baths by themselves and stuff.


But um ... yeah growing up, and even today there are grounds that you go to where there are big baths and if you want to get in a bath you get in a bath as long as someone don't wee in it or do a number two then you're alright.

Ferdinand: Yeah I  actually used to do gymnastics. I've done dancing stuff as well as a kid. But I kept that on the hush when I went to secondary school and obviously I started playing football a lot more seriously.

That's where I get my rhythm from. People see me on the dance floor when I was younger and they wonder where I got my rhythm from. It's there. I've done loads of things. Danced. Music.

Interviewer: When was the last time you cried?

 

Ferdinand: When we lost the FA Cup Final to Arsenal. I cried.

 

Interviewer: Do you think it's fair that footballers get paid for playing for their country or should it be the privilege?

Ferdinand: I think it should be a privilege but in the
England team, we give all of our money to charity.

 

And we don't get paid what we get paid playing for our clubs. Let me just remind you of that. It's not a
large amount and the money we get through our match fees now go into good causes that we disperse among
loads of different charities. So it's a step in the right direction I think.

Interviewer: Who's the best footballer in the world?

 

Ferdinand: On form, I'd say Christiano Ronaldo. He's a
fantastic footballer. He does things that no players can do. I've tried a few times and fell over in training the few things that he does. If you're going to look for the prototype of a footballer he's someone that you'd be looking at.

Interviewer: What's your proudest moment career-wise?

Ferdinand: Proudest moment career-wise is winning the League with Manchester United definitely. I think it shows you're part of the best team. And to do that on the occasions I've done it was has been very, very proud for me.

Interviewer: What's the one thing you'd still like to achieve in your career?

Ferdinand: There are few things to be honest with you. Like winning the Champions League. I'd love to do that with Man United.  Win the European Championships with
England
and win the World Cup with England.

On fatherhood

 

Interviewer: What sort of a dad are you?

Ferdinand: The best.

Interviewer: What do you mean?

Ferdinand: I'm unbelievable serious. I do everything.


On starting out in football

Interviewer: How did you start your footballing career?

 

Ferdinand: Probably about when I was in primary school. When I was about eight. That's what I can remember. Maybe before then. But I loved playing football at school
but I never really played for a team when I was that age and a lot of kids were playing for teams and stuff but I didn't really get into that until my uncle had a team and I was about ten or 11. 

 

He said come down on a Saturday. So  I went down and trained and ever since I've got the bug and I've
loved it ever since then to be honest with you. So I've

played seriously probably since I was about 12.  

 

QPR scouts came and approached me in a game once and then the rest is history really.

On fellow pupil Stephen Lawrence who was killed in a racist attack

Interviewer: Do you know Stephen Lawrence as you went to the same school?

 

Ferdinand: I knew him fairly well. And then all of a sudden I came in one morning and someone said Stephen's been stabbed and then everyone was like "whoa, what's what do you mean he's been stabbed?"

 

Oh he was in Eltham (East London)  and that just rung alarm bells straightaway. Eltham at ten o'clock at night or
whatever time it was at night well you just don't go
there if you're black at that time.

 

And it was known as quite a racist area at the time anyway.  And then someone said he was with
Dwayne Brooks, another guy who I used to play football with at school. And so obviously loads of stories get coming out. Then the head teacher  called assembly and then told everybody what had happened. And the school was off for a day.  It crazy.  There were lots of tears and stuff because he was a he was a good guy to be honest with you. A lot of people got on really well with him.

On his cousin, Les Ferdinand, the ex-England, QPR and Tottenham Hot Spur player.

Interviewer: When did you meet Les?

 

Ferdinand: He was at QPR when I was at QPR. It was weird. That's how I found out he was family. While I was playing my dad saw him and he'd heard about me at the
club so they ended up talking and found out like that we were cousins and that so it was great news for me because  I went back and I was even more bullish about it. To have a footballer in your family was just things to write home about.

 

With thanks to Endemol UK and Manchester United Football Club.

 

Please e-mail comments to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com

 

 

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