Alvaro Oleart

Anton Ferdinand: «The best footballer I ever played with is Tevez»

After three seasons at Sunderland, Anton Ferdinand the last day of august to QPR and came back to London, where he was born. This season he has established as one of the pillars of the team now managed by Mark Hughes. We talked to him at the QPR trainig ground, at Harrington.

The actual Queens Park Rangers training ground, located at Harlington, close to the Heathrow airport, is the best example of the financial policy that followed Bernie Ecclestone and Flavio Briatore at the londoner club. The Formula 1 magnates always saw the club as an investment. That´s why, when QPR got promoted, their intention was to not spend a pound and to sell as soon as possible.
Their case is the opposite of the malasian millionaire Tony Fernandes, that acquired the club in the summer. Because of his money injection, the club could close lately the signings of Joey Barton, Shaun Wrigt Phillips and Anton Ferdinand.
The last of them, Anton Ferdinand, received us with a ear to ear smile and displaying the usual englis hospitality (A cup of tea? Cofee?), that we rejected kindly. He serves some «Weetabix» in a deep plate and joins us in the table. Next to us, the prestigious magazine FourFourTwo is interviewing Joey Barton.
Before we start the interview, Ferdinand talked to us about his recent visit to Barcelona to see his friends from Pinnacle Absolute, the deep impression that caused on him the Camp Nou («it impressed me that had a chapel in the stadium, because I am very Christian and and I pray before every match») and how he liked Barcelona.
You were born in London and grew up at West Ham. Nevertheless, you left the city and the club of all your life to go to Sunderland. How do you remember that transfer?
To depart from West Ham was hard. I played there from 9 years old to 22. A long time. So many memories, such as watching my brother. But I took my trip to Sunderland with much more enthusiasm because of Roy Keane, the former manager. He, one of the best players in his position, if not the best, made a big gamble in signing me. That gave me a lot of confidence. The bad thing was that, three months later, he was gone.
And this summer, you were transfered on deadline day from Sunderland to QPR. What took you to do it? 
Football. I want to play football. To train everyday and not play on saturday becomes hard. That´s what I looked at. If I was guaranteed to play every week, then I probably would have stayed at Sunderland. Last season, after playing well, I was not always in the team in the following match. Strange but: why would that change? Besides, there was just one year left in my contract, so for Sunderland and me was good a transfer. They got some money and I would have the chance to gain a place in the starting eleven of a Premier League club.

As a West Ham fan, it hurts me that the club leave Upton Park

I went to Sunderland because of Roy Keane… but he left three months after

Now that has past, how do you feel about your time at Sunderland?
I went to Sunderland for one reason: to become a man. I was tested mentally out there. I showed that I´m mentally strong, because football is about confidence. I am confident in my ability. I enjoyed my time at Sunderland. I left many friends there, not just players but the staff. But that chapter is closed, I´m now focused just on QPR.
Three years later, you come back to London. What are the differences between before and after your period at Sunderland?
When I was at West Ham I was younger and more inmature. I came back as a different person, more focused on my football, with the aim of being known as a good footballer, not as a man that could have been a good footballer. I am definitly going in the right direction.
Although QPR is a just promoted club, Tony Fernandes invested a lot of money by signing Shaun Wright-Phillips, Joey Barton and yourself at the end of the summer. Did then the goal of the season change?
The goal is and always has been to stay in the Premier League. It would be stupid to look beyond that goal right now. If we stay in the Premier League, we will attract more players and then we can look beyond that. The goal is to become an established club in the Premier League, not an up and down club. Then, when we achieve that, we will look forward to be a top 10 club, and maybe after, Europe.
Newcastle are, in a positive way, the most surprising team so far. What do you think about Alan Pardew, actually the Newcastle coach and your former manager at West Ham for more than three years?
With Alan Pardew I probably played my best football so far. He gave me the mental strenghth to go out there and play with no fear. He treated me as an adult when I was just 18 or 19, and that gave me a lot of confidence. He wanted me to express myself on the pitch. If I wanted to take the ball out of defense, he would let me do it. He would let me play with freedom, as if I was playing with my friends in the park. Sometimes I got in trouble, but if you don´t make mistakes, you don´t learn.
West Ham, your former team and with which you were close to win an FA Cup in 2006, were relegated last season. What reasons do you think that made them get relegated?
I don´t know. Once you get into a bad run in this league, is very hard to get out of it. Every game, every week, is a tough game in the Premier League. I was in that battle some years ago (in the season 2006-07), but we had the players to get out of it. We had a lot of players that grew up in the club. When I was in that battle, we were together. We forgot about everyone else. The squad was together. Maybe this season there were different groups, maybe a lack of unity was the one of the reasons.
What was the key for West Ham the season you were?
We had the captain, Lucas Neill, that was fantastic. We used to have meetings just the players, without the manager. When we went out on the pitch, we all knew what we had to do, there were no distractions. We could do as much as we want during the week, but on Saturday we had to be focused. Once we crossed the white line, we were just the eleven players chosen by the manager. It helps to see such players as Tévez or Mascherano, even more to a guy like me, because i was just 19 or 20. I had to step up and be like them. I enjoyed that experience and learned a lot.
What is your opinion of the move from Upton Park to Olympic Stadium for West Ham?
It could be a good thing. But, for me, Upton Park has so many memories and so much history that it´s gonna be hard to say goodbye to Upton Park. Also because of the legends that played there, such as Bobby Moore. For a lot of «hammers», like me, it will be hard.
You were Carlos Tevez’s team-mate at West Ham. He has generated a lot of controversy this season at Manchester City. What´s your opinion of the striker?
Anyone who knows Carlos, knows that what you see of Carlos is what you get. It´s him. He wants to play every week and is upset because he wants to play football. If you take that away from him, he´s not the same Carlos. A lot of people criticizes him, but maybe if they were in the same position, they would do the same thing. Not just a fantastic footballer, but a really nice guy. A pleasure to play with him. The best player I have ever played with. Someone who loves football.

Pardew treated me as an adult and gave me a lot of freedom

Yes, Les, Rio and me played in the Premier League thanks to the family 

You make a lot of references in psicological aspects of football…
Football is technical when it´s a one-man team. Like in tennis, because it´s just you. But in football, sometimes your togetherness can get you through the game. How many times, in the FA Cup has a small team beat a bigger one? They might not have more ability, but maybe they have got more unity. For any team it´s important to know each other, not just in a footballisthic way, but in a psicological way.
Before signing for QPR, you were close to signing for a foreign club. Would you like to play abroad?
Yes, definitely. I´m not afraid to learn another language, to embrace another culture, these things don´t fear me. As long as the football is good, the club is good, why not? My family would come with me.
What differences do you see between english and spanish football? 
A lot. In terms of style, spanish is more my game, more technical. In England is more about togetherness and running. The reason why Spain are winning everything at the moment is because they have both. As a league, the main difference is that in the Premier League, every game is hard. In the spanish league, for Barcelona and Real Madrid, the only hard games are against each other, and maybe when they play Atlético or Valencia. That´s why the Premier League is more exciting to watch.
Your cousin Les, your brother Rio and yourself have a long experience at the Premier League. What´s the secret of your family? I want to do it myself.
Good parents, foccused on there kids. Whenever I need to play football, I was there. But if i didn´t do anything at school, I wasn´t going to football. That´s the way my parents were. They gave me that mental strenght to do what I want to do. Whatever I would choose, they backed me 100%.

Twitter is a fantastic tool for people to know you better

I was born in Peckam, not in Chelsea. I know how hard is to go forward 

As many other players, you are a regular at Twitter (@anton_ferdinand). What risks and advantages do you think this tool has?
A lot of players have been banned for using inapropiate language or say inapropiate things, but, fortunatly I haven´t suffered that yet. (at this moment, all of us involuntary turn to where Joey «every time I tweett I get in trouble» Barton was). I think it´s the best way for the supporters to talk to the players, and it´s a good way to let people know what you like as a person, not just as a footballer. If I had the chance when I was a kid to talk to my heros, I would have totally enjoyed contacting with the players I support.
Besides that, personally, it´s a way to show who I really am. The press in England put me out as someone who is flashed by the fame and stuff like that. That´s not me. In fact, a lot of people, after meeting me, told me «I thought you were different». 
People see a different side of me at twitter. I do care about people, I am not just worried about myself. If someone tweets me, I will tweet them back. 
We know you are well involved with society. You work for Right to Play, an international humanitarian that has the goal of improving the lives of children in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the world by using the power of sport and play for development, health and peace.
I started because I never forget where I come from. If it wasn´t for the streets, where I grew up and in the football teams I played in Peckham, I would not play for QPR now. This made me. So, for me, to give them something back to them, it´s a must. If you don´t do things like this, you forgot where you come from. Because the life of being footballer it´s very good. So, doing things like this keeps you grounded. Keeps your feet on the floor.
People dream to be a footballer. I can go there and chat to them «If you wanna be a footballer, this is what you have to do». A lot of kids would say «you don´t understand because you don´t live my life». But I can tell them that «yes, I  have lived your life. I took that path, and if you don´t take that path you are not gonna succeed in what you want to do». They can feel reflected on me, because i grew up here, not in Chelsea or somewhere where they didn´t have it so hard.
It´s been 45 minutes already since we started the intervew. The Weetabix transformed in a uniforme mass and with a not very desirable aspect. Barton was gone a while ago. Anton apologises with us («the training starts in ten minutes») and says goodbye to us while explains that in the dressing room they call him Scooby Doo. «Now that I look at you, I can understand why», I answer. Between laughs we separate, not before he invites us to Loftus Road to see him play, an ocasion that we didn´t waste.
Para leer la entrevista en español, pulsa aquí.

Sobre el autor

Alvaro Oleart