Rio Ferdinand: The Games That Changed My Life

Jonathan Fadugba

Wimbledon 1-1 West Ham (March 18, 1997)

“One of my first games. I was in midfield and felt so comfortable playing professional football against Vinnie Jones and Robbie Earle. I was dropping skills as if I was back playing on my estate. At one point I beat three or four players and set someone up, and I thought: ‘I reckon I’ve got a chance here to do really good things.’”

England 2-0 Cameroon (November 15, 1997)

“My England debut was mad. Gareth Southgate got injured and the hairs on the back of my neck stood up as I replaced him in front of my whole family. Gazza should’ve set me up to score, too, but he passed to someone else! My friends were all saying: ‘My mate plays for England now.’ We used to get Umbro gear for free, so all my mates were wandering around our estate wearing England tracksuits. It was like a big celebration for all of us.”

Leicester 3-1 Leeds (December 2, 2000)

“Filbert Street was a hard place to go, especially for your first game at a new club. The manager tried to integrate us all in a new system and it just didn’t work, while West Ham won and went above Leeds in the league. I remember thinking: ‘Oh my God, I’ve made the biggest mistake of my life.’ Straight away you doubt, but in time I got the feeling of what it’s like at a big club: you either enjoy it or you sink.”

Manchester United 7-1 Roma (April 10, 2007)

“This Champions League quarter-final stands out. We went back into the changing room and Sir Alex Ferguson said: ‘Sit down. Everyone be quiet for a minute. You’ll never, ever experience that kind of result again. This comes around once in a career, where everyone is at a nine out of 10 or better and everything you do clicks. This was that night in your career, boys.’ I’ll never forget that.”

Manchester United 1-1 Chelsea (6-5 penalties) (May 21, 2008)

“Obviously Moscow! I don’t remember much of the game itself; we played well in the first half, then they were much better after the break. As captain, it was all about getting your hands on that Champions League trophy. It was like a dream. The amount of drinking I did that night definitely reflected how important that game was! The emotions after winning were nuts. I’ve never felt nerves like the ones during that penalty shootout in my life.”

Sunderland 0-1 Manchester United (May 13, 2012)

“Losing the league on the last day of the season to Manchester City was a big negative. You just stand there, stamping your feet, thinking, ‘It’s not fair’ like a kid. How can football be so cruel? We’d beaten Sunderland and won the title, then two minutes later, you’re on your knees, dead. It’s the end of the world in your little bubble, more or less. ‘Next time that ain’t happening,’ we said. The following season we won the league. That’s the strength you need to show.”

#2Sides – My Autobiography by Rio Ferdinand (Blink Publishing) is out now

This feature first appeared in the November 2014 issue of FourFourTwo magazine. Subscribe! 

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