Manchester United defender, Rio Ferdinand has defended his controversial decision to jet to the Middle East to be a TV pundit on England's clash with San Marino.
It was revealed that Ferdinand, who pullled out of the England squad due to a back injury, is set to travel to Qatar in a 15-hour round trip to commentate on the game for Arab TV station, Al Jazeera.
The defender, agreed to be a pundit on Al Jazeera for the San Marino match, even though it will entail a 15-hour round trip to their headquarters in Doha.
Ferdinand boarded an overnight flight to the Middle East - sleeping in a bed on the plane before landing early this morning.
It is understood that on previous flights with Manchester United, he has remained standing for significant periods to prevent his back from tightening, only sitting for any lengthy time during take-off and landing.
He also takes a customised orthopedic cushion with him for long-haul flights.
He will now stay and train at the luxury Aspire Academy in Doha, which is a favourite of United for winter breaks. The Barclays Premier League leaders spent several days there in January.
After touching down in Qatar, Ferdinand tweeted: 'Gonna check into Aspire, state of the art facilities. Nice!
'1) Flown out for some pre-planned downtime...with a bit of punditry thrown in for a game I would have watched anyway...
'2) No different from what I done on the last 10day international break...thank you guys.
'Haters are gonna hate...also assume everything...although it must be the gospel truth based on assumptions!'
The travel schedule will hardly help a back problem so delicate that Ferdinand pulled out of Roy Hodgson’s squad so as not to jeopardise his treatment.
And, after all the fuss over his aborted international comeback, his decision is sure to enrage England fans as well as the FA.
Ferdinand's recall was the most debated topic in the lead-up to Hodgson's announcement of the squad for the qualifiers, which also sees England take on Montenegro on Tuesday.
After being left out of the Euro 2012 set-up for what Hodgson insisted were 'footballing reasons' in favour of John Terry, Ferdinand's form for United this season, and John Terry no longer considered for the Three Lions, prompted his return to the fold.
However, after three days of speculation, including a warning to England over his training regime from club manager Sir Alex Ferguson, Ferdinand met with Hodgson on Sunday to say he would be pulling out of the squad.
His chronic back problem, requiring careful planning and a strict training regime, was cited as the reason for the decision.
Ferdinand then took to his Twitter account to say ex-sportsmen criticising his actions were 'talking rubbish', but he is sure to face a further backlash over his punditry gig.
But the 34-year-old is working on the Arabic broadcast, which requires him to be in Doha. It is not available to viewers in the UK.
Ferdinand will not stay in the Gulf for England’s game against Montenegro on Tuesday and the short turnaround will result in his fragile back being subjected to almost 15 hours in an aircraft in the space of four days.
The Ferdinand camp say he had one of his finely scheduled set of injections this week, meaning he would not have trained today or tomorrow, and he will have the sun on his back while he rests up in Doha.
Al Jazeera sports chief Duncan Walkinshaw said: ‘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.’
It is now very clear why Rio Ferdinand pulled out of the England squad. Can't say i blame him though.