Rio Ferdinand book: Two sides of Rio as Peckham boy meets glitz and glamour at launch

QPR defender releases his second tome

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The Independent Online

Leaving the tube en route to Rio Ferdinand’s book launch I picked up a copy of Sport magazine featuring an interview with the author, in which he said the biggest change in the game in his career was “the money”. It was an appropriate start to a bizarre evening.

There may be more expensive boutique hotels than the May Fair, but not many. To give you an idea of the opulence, it is popular with Sepp Blatter and Fifa.

The event began with a press conference inside a windowless room decorated all in black. The first question, from Men’s Fitness magazine, was about pre-match meals.

Next up was a Q&A conducted by Clare Balding in a mini-cinema that appeared to be decorated floor to ceiling in purple flock carpet. Entry was by gold-coloured wristband.

There were contributions from the floor by Anton Ferdinand, Tony Cottee (whose boots were cleaned by Rio at West Ham), and Peter Ridsdale (who signed Rio at Leeds and is now often seen at Preston but definitely does not run the club as he is barred by the FA, having been disqualified as a director). Football was further represented by Queen’s Park Rangers team-mates Karl Henry and Alex McCarthy, Crawley Town manager John Gregory, and Steve Parish, co-chairman and co-owner of Crystal Palace – but not Emile Heskey, who was supposed to be included in the Q&A but had failed to turn up. As, indeed, had many other QPR players.

Also in the audience was a cluster of celebrities, most only recognisable if you read the Daily Mail website’s sidebar of shame or watch programmes like Towie. Among the more illustrious were Boris Becker, comedians Jack Whitehall and Micky Flanagan, Alex Walkinshaw, of The Bill and Holby City fame, and Michelle Mone, founder of the Ultima lingerie brand. We then adjourned to a two-tiered bar overlooked by a pair of giant Buddha statues.

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Michelle Mone, founder of the Ultima lingerie company

How many of the 200 or so guests were friends of Ferdinand was not entirely clear, but the evening summed up the way in which he has gone from Peckham boy, to international footballer, to multi-media personality.

 

Ferdinand’s first book, Rio: My Story, in 2006, was a conventional autobiography. This one, like Sir Alex Ferguson’s latest, is less an autobiography than an update spiced up with opinions and tales (“trivia”, according to Kick It Out’s Herman Ouseley, but interesting nevertheless).

#2sides is an appropriate title as Ferdinand is a thoughtful, complex man shot through with contradictions, such as campaigning against gang crime while being a producer of the gangland drugs movie Dead Man Running. The row with Kick It Out fits into this.  Ferdinand, understandably, is very passionate on the issue, but you wonder why things could not have been sorted out less messily.

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‘Holby City’ actor Alex Walkinshaw;

Nevertheless, away from the glitz of Thursday night, Ferdinand has much to offer the game, possibly in an administrative capacity, and as his playing career draws to a close it is to be hoped he stays in it.

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