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Rio Ferdinand on football, music and who'd win in a BT vs Sky 5-a-side

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Former England captain Rio Ferdinand reflects on his early ballet career, interviewing P Diddy, and ‘merking’ David Beckham

How’s your new career in punditry going?
It’s a new challenge, but I’ve always had a really good work ethic. I’ve got a bit of experience. I’ve been interviewing people for years for my digital magazine [#5]. I interview all the cover stars, from Roger Federer to LeBron James. 

Who’s been your favourite interview?
The guy who started Instagram, his name escapes me at the moment [co-founder Kevin Systrom]. To see someone who’s created a company and become a billionaire overnight really interests me.

You’re editor-in-chief of #5. Whose idea was that?
My agent suggested doing a magazine. I was like, “No one’s going to buy a f*cking Rio Ferdinand magazine.” But I want to do something I can give away to people.

What was it like interviewing 50 Cent and P Diddy?
I got the idea they were both more interested in business than hip-hop. These guys haven’t got to where they are just with hit songs, a lot of what they do is calculated.

Who’s your dream cover star?
Kendrick Lamar. Pharrell too because the music he likes is the music I like. Will.i.am would be good. Kanye West would be the best one, he’d offer so much. 

You set up your own music label, White Chalk. What happened?
That’s gone. I learnt you have to be in the music industry 24/7 for a chance of success. I set it up for a friend to keep them on the straight and narrow. It didn’t really work. 

Will we ever see more World Cup Wind-Ups?
I’ve been offered to do it most years since, but I wanted to finish my career first and then evaluate what I wanted to do next.

So it’ll be back on screen in time for Euro 2016 then?
[Laughs] I’ve not decided yet, you’ll see. I’ll let you know, though.

Who was your best ever merk?
They were all satisfying. I think getting David Beckham to run down a street in Moss Side was hilarious. Watching Wayne Rooney cringe when he thought a dog had died was also very funny.

Who’s the best footballer you’ve ever played with?
Paul Scholes was the most natural footballer. But Cristiano Ronaldo was the best. You gave him the ball and most of the time he would score a goal. He had an unbelievable desire to become the best in the world and he achieved it.

Man United fans are a tuneful bunch. Are you disappointed the best they could come up with for you was chanting ‘Rio, Rio, Rio’?
It’s quite boring. And yeah, I’m a bit disappointed with their lack of imagination. They let me down. 

You were part of England’s Golden Generation – one that massively underachieved. How do you look back on your international career?
With fond memories. But also with disappointment. If you speak to any player from that era, they’ll say we should have done better. 

Which tournaments in particular should we have done better at? 
Japan and Korea for the 2002 World Cup. 

Most people would say Germany 2006…
Yeah, we underachieved in 2006. But that quarter-final against Brazil in 2002 – had we gone in at the break 1-0 up I think we’d have gone on to win the game. 

You only went to one other tournament, France ‘98. What do you remember of that game against Argentina?
That goal by Michael Owen. 

He’s claimed he’s only seen eight film in his life. Will you take him to see the new Bond film?
No, I’m not a film lover either. I don’t mind them, but I end up falling asleep most of the time. I can’t stay still for that long. 

Who’d win a five-a-side match: BT Sport or Sky Sports?
We’ve got the best five-a-side team. Scholes and Steve McManaman in midfield, Owen up front, me at the back and James in goal. Sky have got Gary Neville and Jamie Carragher in defence, Jamie Redknapp in midfield and Thierry Henry up front. It’d be a great match, but we'd win.

Is it true you used to do ballet training? Has football denied the world of an amazing dancer?
I was never going to be a professional, but I trained at the Central School Of Ballet in Farringdon for about four years. 

Did your cousin Les Ferdinand convince you to play football?
No, I didn’t know him then. My family’s quite spread out. I didn’t know he was family until I met him as a kid when he played for QPR.

Finally, you have 6.4m followers on Twitter. What’s the secret to being a Twitter hit?
Being genuine. You’ve got big stars who put their names to something. But people like me are just being genuine – I’m the person tweeting.

BT Sport is the new home of European football, with all UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League matches exclusively live; btsport.com/europe

[Images: Ian Hodgson, Rex, Shutterstock]

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