- World Cup qualifiers
Rio defiant in face of Qatar trip criticism
Rio Ferdinand has defended his decision to fly out to Qatar to commentate on England's game with San Marino for TV station Al Jazeera.
Ferdinand added to England's defensive crisis ahead of their 2014 World Cup qualifier with San Marino by pulling out of the squad "due to the detailed pre-planned training and medical programme he must follow".
However, reports that Ferdinand would need to undertake an ardous plane journey (albeit one likely to be taken in first-class) may well sit uncomfortably with England.
Manchester United centre-back Ferdinand defended his decision saying 'haters gonna hate' when he tweeted:
1) Flown out for some pre-planned downtime...with a bit of punditry thrown in for a game I would have watched anyway...— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) March 21, 2013
2) No different from what I done on the last 10day international break...thank you guys.— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) March 21, 2013
The Aspire Academy is a state of the art facility in Doha which opened in 2005 and has hosted major sporting events such as the IAAF World Indoor Championships for athletics.
Al Jazeera sports chief Duncan Walkinshaw told the paper: "We've been talking with Rio about coming out to Qatar for over two years and finally everything fitted into place. Big pundit names are very popular on the Arabic channels even if their comments have to be translated.
"It's up to United and Rio how he looks after his fitness. But the sports medicine facilities over here are second to none and United came here for hot weather training in January."