After Pulling Out Of England Qualifiers, Ferdinand Defends Qatar Trip
ManU 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. Ferdinand withdrew from England’s upcoming qualifiers to "look after his chronic back problem but has sparked fresh controversy over his marathon trip." Ferdinand boarded an overnight flight to the Middle East -- "sleeping in a bed on the plane before landing early this morning." He will now train at the luxury Aspire Academy in Doha, which is a favorite of ManU for winter breaks, and is "believed to be staying at the Grand Heritage." The EPL leaders spent several days at the Aspire training base in January. After touching down in Qatar, Ferdinand tweeted: "Gonna check into Aspire, state of the art facilities. Nice!" The travel schedule will "hardly help a back problem so delicate" that Ferdinand pulled out of ROY HODGSON’s squad so as not to jeopardize his treatment. And, after all the fuss over his aborted int'l 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. But after three days of speculation, including a warning to England over his training regime from club manager 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 (DAILY MAIL, 3/20). The PA wrote Hodgson was "keen to stress" on Monday that the door remained open to Ferdinand for future matches, and he reaffirmed his desire to play for England again. The defender said: "One thing I made clear was that my passion and commitment to represent my country is as strong as ever" (PA, 3/21).