Soccer

Rio Ferdinand defends trip to Qatar

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MANCHESTER, England (AP)

Rio Ferdinand has defended his decision to fly to Doha and appear as a television analyst for England's World Cup qualifier against San Marino on Friday, days after ruling himself out of the match over fitness issues.

The Manchester United defender cited the need to follow a ''detailed and pre-planned program'' of fitness as the reason for missing the game at San Marino and Tuesday's qualifier against Montenegro, which would have marked his international return after a two-year absence.

Instead, he'll be in Qatar, visiting the Aspire training academy before working for Al-Jazeera.

''No different from what I done on the last 10day international break,'' Ferdinand said in a Twitter post on Thursday, adding it is ''punditry thrown in for a game I would have watched anyway.''

England coach Roy Hodgson said he has no qualms about Ferdinand's decision to make the 15-hour journey to the Middle East.

''As we all know, he wasn't able to accept the (squad) invitation so what he actually does now and how he operates in the coming couple of weeks, that's his business and the club's business,'' Hodgson said Thursday at a pre-match news conference.

Hodgson said he will ''wait and see'' if Ferdinand has an international future.

''I think it's more a question of how his injury situation will impact upon him playing for England,'' Hodgson said.

''At the moment it's speculation about a longer-term future whereas my focus is on these next two games.''



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