SPORT

Rio Ferdinand Flying To Doha For TV Pundit Role On England Game

21/03/2013 08:29 GMT | Updated 21/03/2013 10:32 GMT

Rio Ferdinand has risked the wrath of England supporters after it emerged the defender has made a 15-hour round trip to Doha to cover the Three Lions' World Cup qualifier with San Marino, despite pulling out of the squad due to his "intricate pre-planned programme".

The Manchester United defender has agreed to play the pundit for Al Jazeera's coverage of Friday's game, which will cause further embarrassment for England coach Roy Hodgson after the handling of Ferdinand's brief international return. Especially because Ferdinand’s trip is three times as long as England’s jaunt to Italy on Wednesday and Al Jazeera also boast a London studio.

Ferdinand tweeted this morning he was checking into Aspire, presumably the academy Manchester United stayed at during their warm weather training in January.

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Ferdinand has courted controversy with his 15-hour round trip to Doha

Earlier this week, the 34-year-old hit back at the criticism he had received for not joining up with the England squad, having previously said he would "pack my bags and go straight there".

"I thought these ex sportsman who have experience with injuries + maintenance would know better than to chat rubbish like they are doing..." Ferdinand said on Monday.

Earlier this year it was reported BT, who will screen 38 live Premier League games next season, had approached Ferdinand with a view to working as a pundit for them next season.

Ferdinand's contract with Manchester United expires in the summer however his loyalty to Sir Alex Ferguson - who was against his player linking up with England - could be rewarded with a new contract.

With his fitness seemingly unable to withstand two games in five games (Hodgson's team played four games in 14 days at Euro 2012), his trek to Doha could finally kill his England career stone dead.

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Hodgson faces more awkward questions about Ferdinand's future

Al Jazeera sports chief Duncan Walkinshaw said the broadcasters had been in discussions with Ferdinand, whose sole punditry role came with Sky Sports for the 2006 FA Cup final, about appearing on the channel for "over two years".

"We’ve been talking with Rio about coming out to Qatar for over two years and finally everything fitted into place," Walkinshaw confirmed.

"Big pundit names are very popular on the Arabic channels even if their comments have to be translated.

"It’s up to United and Rio how he looks after his fitness. But the sports medicine facilities over here are second to none and United came here for hot weather training in January."

UPDATE: Ferdinand has defended his decision to fly to Qatar on Twitter.

"Flown out for some pre-planned downtime...with a bit of punditry thrown in for a game I would have watched anyway.

"No different from what I done on the last 10 day international break...thank you guys.

"Haters are gonna hate...also assume everything...although it must be the gospel truth based on assumptions!"