Rio Ferdinand admits he feels cursed after the England captain was ruled out of the World Cup with a knee ligament injury.
Ferdinand's World Cup is over before a ball has even been kicked in the tournament as a result of the left knee damage he suffered in a training session tackle with Emile Heskey on Friday.
The Manchester United defender was on crutches as he left a hospital in Rustenburg after scans showed he would be out for six weeks. The 31-year-old had arrived in South Africa finally fit after an injury-ravaged campaign restricted him to just 13 Premier League games for United.
But now he is condemned to follow England's bid for World Cup glory from the sidelines as Steven Gerrard takes over the captain's armband. His agent Pini Zahavi told The Sun: "Rio said: 'I think somebody cursed me.' That is honestly how he feels."
"Rio is very down. He cannot understand why this has happened to him. This injury is nothing to do with the ones he had before. It is completely different and it is very bad luck. Rio was feeling sharp and was ready for the World Cup. He has waited so long for this tournament and to try and help England win it. He had prepared himself so well."
"But he is a very strong man and he will be back. I'm sure he will be leading England in four years time at the next World Cup."
Ferdinand's injury is the latest blow for England coach Fabio Capello in a troubled few months. The Italian has already had to deal with stripping John Terry of the captaincy as a result of the defender's affair with the ex-partner of Wayne Bridge, who then added to Capello's misery by retiring from international duty.
Capello was also forced into a hasty climb-down over his involvement in a website that would have made public his ratings of the England players' performances during the World Cup. The former AC Milan coach admitted it was a terrible start to England's World Cup campaign.
"It's the curse of being captain. It was a tackle and then there was big pain. He (Ferdinand) put his feet in the grass with Heskey and then he moved," Capello said.
"The other players were upset. They stopped training. All the players who are here with me are important. But he is one of the starting players, the captain, a leader. It couldn't have been much worse on my first day. We have to pray 'help us'. No more."
With just a week to go until England play their World Cup opener against the United States, Capello has to regroup quickly and get his players' minds back on the job at hand.
"We have to move forward. Rio was always an important player for us, even if we played games without him, but I have big confidence in my other defenders," Capello said.
"You have to take into account this might happen -- sometimes it happens during a game, sometimes in training. You have to prepare always for this like a manager does. It happens sometimes and you have to deal with it. It's normal for the manager. Normal."
Ferdinand's place in the squad was taken by Tottenham defender Michael Dawson, who joined up with the squad at their Rustenburg training base today after flying out on Friday night.