Rio Ferdinand, the 34-year-old Manchester United defender, is seen with Aspire Academy athletes in Doha yesterday. RIGHT: Ferdinand signs on the ‘Wall of Fame’ at the Aspire Academy during his visit. Ferdinand has appeared in 81 games for the England national side.
DOHA: Rio Ferdinand, the star of Manchester United and England defence lines, visited Aspire Academy yesterday following his commentary stint with Al-Jazeera Sports Channel.
Ferdinand was welcomed at the academy by Director General Ivan Bravo, who explained to the EPL star the concept of the Academy, how it works and what is the mission and vision at the world’s largest indoor sports facility.
Bravo also informed Ferdinand that the Qatar national football team is also housed at the Academy which remains one of the most popular venue for international indoor sports events.
Later, the 34-year-old ‘Reds’ defender was taken in for a tour of the different facilities of Aspire Academy where he received details of the venue.
He also signed the ‘Wall of Fame’ at the academy reserved to sporting stars and VIP visitors.
“I am pleased to be here,” Ferdinand said.
“I have been here twice before with the Manchester Unite side (for winter training camps),” the tall defender said.
He said the latest visit was free of ‘pressure of training’ as he was in town for a TV stint with Al Jazeera Sports Channel.
Sporting a white top and red cap, Ferdinand later posed with Aspire Academy athletes and officials before winding up his visit.
Earlier, Ferdinand insisted there was nothing controversial about his decision to fly to Qatar in the week he withdrew from England World Cup qualifying duty.
The Uniter defender was in the squad selected by England manager Roy Hodgson for the upcoming World Cup qualifiers against both San Marino and Montenegro.
But the centre-back withdrew Monday, citing the need to follow a fitness plan produced by English Premier League (EPL) leaders United. It emerged Ferdinand would visit the Aspire training academy (which he did) and worked as a television pundit for Doha-based channel Al Jazeera when England played San Marino on Friday.
Ferdinand told his Twitter followers on Thursday: “1) Flown out for some pre-planned downtime...with a bit of punditry thrown in for a game I would have watched anyway. No different from what I done on the last 10day international break...thank you guys. Haters are gonna hate...also assume everything...although it must be the gospel truth based on assumptions!” Ferdinand insisted his withdrawal should not be seen as a sign he wanted to call time on his England career.
“One thing I made clear was that my passion and commitment to represent my country is as strong as ever,” he said.