Ferdinand praised for revealing racism

September 19, 2006

Anti-racism campaigners have praised England defender Rio Ferdinand for revealing the abuse one of his team-mates suffered at West Ham.

Ferdinand, 27, explained in his new book 'Rio My Story' how a Hammers team-mate was racially abused by a respected opponent during a game.

Piara Powar, director of the Kick It Out anti-racism campaign, believes Ferdinand has set a fine example by speaking out about problems in the game, even though racism on the pitch is not seen as a huge problem.

Powar told PA Sport: 'It takes someone like Rio to remind us to understand how far we have come. There may be other players getting abuse for other things - such as homophobia - and speaking out over abuse can highlight that.

'Rio has been one of the players who has always been aware of his roots as he grew up in inner-city London - he's been loyal to local people too with his music and fashion activities outside football.

'He is also a very articulate person, urbane and not shy about speaking out.'

Manchester United centre-back Ferdinand insists there are 'pockets' of racial abuse in the English game.

He was not allowed to reveal the identity of the person in his book, which is being serialised in The Sun, but described the person as someone who 'comes over as quite a nice bloke'.

'If I name the player who came out with the most racist abuse I've ever heard on a football field, no-one would believe it. I guarantee you'd be astonished,' Ferdinand wrote.

'I heard it loud and clear. It involved a black player in our side up against a very well-known opponent.

'I'm thinking, `Am I hearing this right? I can't be hearing this right'.

'But it went on throughout the game and our player told me the defender did the same to him every time they played in order to intimidate him.

'He even admitted that sometimes it worked, which made it all the more depressing.'

Powar admitted he was surprised to read Ferdinand's story, adding: 'I have heard other stories but not this particular one, and it is a very interesting revelation.

'There was a time when players were having problems with racism on the field of play but now it appears that no longer exists, so Ferdinand's story is a shock.

'I think it is a brave thing to do. Rio Ferdinand is unchallenged as a player in terms of his status but there are unwritten rules, like saying things about other players.

'Talking to certain players, it doesn't seem to exist now. If you are racist as a professional footballer then you will have problems in your career.'