Rio Ferdinand’s appointment as England captain completes a long road to redemption for the player who once represented much that was wrong with the modern game.
“I knew I had to change the opinions people had of me,” the 31-year-old Ferdinand said recently. "I think I’ve done that.”
In a turbulent start to Ferdinand’s career, he was exposed in newspapers for featuring on a sex tape with teammates, banned for drink-driving, and suspended from football for eight months for forgetting to attend a drugs test.
That ban ruled Ferdinand out of the 2004 Euro Championship. But six years on, the Manchester United defender is tasked with leading England at the World Cup in June after John Terry was sacked on Friday due to his own sex scandal.
“I’m not ashamed to say I made mistakes as I grew up,” Ferdinand said. “I might make mistakes again in the future — but ones as costly as those in the past? I hope not. As a kid from West Ham, it’s taken me some years to grow up enough to realise the responsibility that goes with being a professional footballer.
“I think I’ve grasped that now. Maturity is part of it. I’ve got a young family. I think everyone goes through ups and downs in their careers, and their lives. It’s how you come out of it that matters.”
Ferdinand survived growing up in the violent and deprived London suburb of Peckham, went through the youth system at West Ham, and made his full football debut in 1996. The centreback’s form saw him become the youngest defender to play for England in 1997.