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In conversation with legend Rio Ferdinand

England and Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand addresses the media during a media briefing at a Nairobi Hotel on December 14, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 14 – Before travelling to Nairobi, Kenya, England and Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand said he buzzed Harambee Stars skipper Victor Wanyama asking him a bit about Kenyan music and the Stars captain sent him a playlist of some Kenyan and East African hits.

Having grown around an African culture in his early years in London, Ferdinand said Africa was always a place close to his heart and specifically Kenya is a country he hoped to one day visit.

“I have met him (Wanyama) severally around the stadium and we shook hands and had a good conversation and when I knew I was travelling to Kenya I thought I’d ask him about Kenya so I got in touch with him and was like ‘yo, what kind of music does Kenya have’ and he sent me and my team a playlist and I have been listening to the songs,” Ferdinand revealed on Friday.

Wanyama has indeed told Capital Sport he dropped the former defender an extended play-list including some from Sauti Sol and Tanzanian artiste Mbosso, a personal favorite of the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder.

“I am glad he liked them,” Wanyama said.

Pumped and ready!! Harambee Stars captain Victor Wanyama arrives at the Moi Sports Centre Kasarani for the 2019 African Cup of Nations qualifier against Ethiopia on October 14, 2018. PHOTO/Raymond Makhaya

Ferdinand is in the country courtesy of the Guinness ‘Made of More’ campaign and Capital Sports sat down with him on the sidelines of his maiden press-brief after arriving in Nairobi on Thursday evening and these are some of the excerpts of the interview.

Q. Why was it important for you to join the Guinness Made of More campaign?

Guinness has brought a great opportunity for fans to bring to them people they have watched on TV for a long time. As players its important to understand and acknowledge that there are fans who support us as teams and individuals and we rarely get the chance to go out there and reach out and touch and see and feel them in different parts of the world so this is great.

I have heard so much about this country and always said this is one of the African countries I need to come to and now I have this opportunity, I feel blessed to be here. I wanna try some local foods and visit around and see the country.

Q. On Saturday you have an engagement in a football clinic at Ruaraka. How important is this for you and how much of an impact do you see this having on the young up and coming talent?

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It’s a very crucial thing because I have always been someone thoughtful of the next generation. It is  also important for them to see people who’ve been there and done it and walked that dream and If I can rub that to the young players in the clinic tomorrow, it would be good.

When I was a young guy if I had the opportunity to speak and listen to pro players at that time I would take it on board.

England and Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand addresses the media alongside top management from Guiness during a media briefing at a Nairobi Hotel on December 14, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

I went to England as a young guy and I looked up to Tony Adams because he was the best at that time and I was there bothering him over lunch, over breakfast, over dinner just asking him questions all the time to get info on how to be better as a footballer.

Young kids should see that when they get to meet professional players who have walked the path coz it’s part of education and if they can take something from it then that’s great.

Q. What do you think of Kenyan football and the man who has put us up in the limelight Victor Wanyama?

I have looked at Kenyan football over a while and it is exciting.

Kenya have just qualified for the African Cup of Nations, for the first time in 15 years and it is a good thing. It’s about time… You guys have some good players like Wanyama who is fantastic as well and you have a few younger guys around Europe.

I think Wanyama is a fantastic player. He has been unlucky with injuries and hasn’t been getting into the Tottenham team much but when he is fit a lot of other teams would be interested in him.

Q. As a continent do you see Africa getting to the same levels of European football some day and probably get to win a World Cup at some point?

I think African countries have always been producing good players. There’s plenty of raw talent in Africa no doubt about that. Just having good structures in the dederationb and bring all stakeholders together is key.

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For example, Nigeria have been very successful at youth level and if you can translate that success to the senior teams then you can be very successful.

But that comes with a lot of financial investment, organization and structures within the federations. That’s an area where African nations can probably improve but in terms of talent they have enough and probably even better than Europe.

Q. Talking about Africa, you’ve played against so many African players. Who is your favorite and who was the toughest you ever faced?

Uh, my favorite African player definitely has to be Jay Jay Okocha…. with the skills, the imagination and he brought a lot of fun on the football pitch and for me and my friends, we loved to see that.

The toughest opponents I faced;

Drogba (Didier) was a great player man… he was unbelievable. The Chelsea team and their success, you can’t think of it without Drogba. Eto’o at Barca was a beast. He was fast, hungry and tough to play against.

But Jay Jay Okocha is my guy. He is the best.

England and Manchester United legend Rio Ferdinand addresses the media during a briefing at a Nairobi Hotel on December 14, 2018. PHOTO/Timothy Olobulu

Q. Let’s talk about your team, Manchester United. Things aren’t going down well for you guys. What’s your take on the current situation?

Man United have been disappointing this season. Where we are in the league isn’t good. Man United is a team that is always at the top but we are not there and it’s disappointing. We have a lot to do. Jose (Mourinho) and the players have a lot of work to do to improve the team and I am sure they are working hard.

Jose, as history dictates is a phenomenal manager but at the moment he us having a hard time. Results don’t lie and the position on the table also doesn’t lie. It is now up to him to get them up and running, confident again to perform as not only a team but individual players as well. He has to take responsibility, I believe a manager has a lot to do in setting the tone at a football club.

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Q. There’s the big one against Liverpool this weekend. They are unbeaten. Do you think United will get something from this game?

When I played for Man United, if we were going through a rough time, you couldn’t wait for the big games. In the big games you forget about form and where you are on the table and think about them. They have to win man.

That’s the biggest game. You go to Anfield and win, it’s a good feeling man. You walk off Anfield and see the fans screaming and veins on their necks because you have won and you walk of looking at them… It’s a nice feeling man.

The players don’t need to be told how important this game is. Liverpool versus Man United is such a big game. When you are there going out, dropping your kids to school you have people telling you ‘it’s Liverpool over the weekend, you have to win eh!’ This is a perfect opportunity to lift the fans again, beat Liverpool start to get confidence and momentum and pick themselves back up.

Q. Moving on, there’s an issue that is very close to your heart and has come to the forefront of late with Raheem Sterling; Racism. What’s your take on this and the efforts done so far?

Raheem Sterling endured alleged racist abuse from a Chelsea fan

A lot of people are scared to talk out. They don’t want to talk about because people will look at it and say ‘oh well, it’s him again’. It has to change. This could be a watershed moment where poeple come out and talk. Ex-Players and current players, but also the powers that be. Are they doing enough? They have to stand with us and make sure we combat racism.

You don’t expect just the players to stand and speak out and make a change. It’s not just a football issue. it’s society. Football can be a good tool to start the conversation but the players need support. Make us feel comfortable talking about it openly. Now is a good time to start.

Q. Away from that, many ex-players seem to struggle with life after football. But for you, it doesn’t look the same. What have you done differently?

A lot of players struggle when they retire coz they haven’t planned for life after retirement. Most retire without plans and sometimes it’s too late for them. At 27, 28 thereabout, I sat down with my management company and we made a plan. I was very sure on what I wanted to do we and we prepared, planned and it has gone to that course. It is all about good planning good management.

Q. Most of the players you played with have gone into coaching. Is it something that you would want to do sometime?

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I am enjoying raising my children at the moment. I have a new relationship, enjoying that and raising my children is the most important thing for me and creating a good family environment. That is important for now. Coaching maybe in the future but now, it’s family. A lot of my friends the likes of Carrick, Lampard have gone into coaching; iit’s a great life. Football is a great life to be in but I wanna keep my hair I don’t want to go grey… I am still involved in football being in studio watching and talking about it every day and I am enjoying it. I love it.

Q. There was a time you were almost going into boxing. What happened?

The boxing finished (chuckles). The people weren’t willing to give me a license. I trained for like five months… they knew I was going to be the world champion .. haha… But seriously, they didn’t because of many reasons but this is life maybe someone (pointing up) was saying don’t do it it’s gonna be hard.

Q. Finally, a word to the young and upcoming players?

Any young player who would want to become footballer, the most important thing is hard work. Of course talent has to be there but you just have to work hard and have a good work ethic where you wake up every day and all you want to do is work hard and improve.

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