Rio Ferdinand interview – is football racist?

By | November 9, 2022

Rio Ferdinand sits down with The Athletic's Roshane Thomas for a wide-ranging discussion on racism in modern football, from his first experiences of it as a player to the ugly scenes after the Euro 2020 final.

Make sure to check out Ferdinand’s new documentary – Tipping Point – that launches on 11th November exclusively on Prime Video.

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#ferdinand #blackhistorymonth #theathletic


Well real I appreciate you doing this uh I watched the documentary last night Really good I watched on you know the Racial abuse the plague experience and Also the documentary on mental health Support documentaries focus more on Mainly on the one where the place Experience racial abuse and Harvey tried To combat it and in the first few Minutes you ask a question of that I Don't even know the answer to and it's Football races and I thought I think The supporters who go to games by and Last summer races fans still exist But when you think about football loads Of black players in the field but for me Personally me being a journalist I'm not Saying it ties into racism but by and Large me carving West Ham if there's Three black journals that's a great day Because May is mainly me when I go to Norway game I know I'm going to be the Only black Jennifer for example you know You think about small director roles by And large it's still less further than Them not mainly many others in this Country so it's a great question but I Really love it I've got the answers what About you what do you reckon Yeah I think I think I think it is I Think there's racist elements that are In the game I think filming the Documentary was really to kind of like

After the Euros especially we were Filming we were in the process already But after the year I was it just kind of Come to the four and you go wow if Anybody doubted if there was racism in And around football yeah that was a Moment where you went it's definitely There it was just hiding and I kind of Got lulled into thinking I thought was Doing a great job on his finances day it Was just hiding that's all it was doing And then that happens And then you sit there and go okay so What's the reaction of the game of of The industry of football And there isn't really a strong enough One that you sit there and go I'll stand Behind that yeah too many mixed messages The different stakeholders in the game All got their own messaging we were just Talking off there before You got Commercial companies Nike Adidas got Their own slogans the PFA got theirs Premier League got theirs the fa got the Ears kicker I got there okay so if you Tell your kids or your niece or nephew Or brother or sister Well if you're talking about football And racism and this is how you want it It's seen in football and this is how We're trying to combat it you couldn't Send them to one place and say that's The message yeah not sure so the kids

The younger generation or anybody Looking at are even more confused coming Out of that conversation So while filming this that's what we Kind of see that there needs to be a Unified approach to players unified but Also the messaging that goes out there For people when we're talking about Combat and racism needs to be really a Unified singular bang that's that's our Our strap land There you go and we're all following That yeah no I definitely agree with you On that you know You know can you say you caught it for Two years right it documentary over two Years over two years What are some of the main frustrations Or issues you had well while recording Documentary One of the some of the main frustrations Also you never believe it really is Getting the players to talk and if it Looks like you know did you yeah yeah Before I get your answer right for me I Feel like because you spoke to any of Luke and she says one issue she thinks Is as a collective is not many of us or Many of players who are talking so let's Say you have one player who's a bit Outspoken asking me they were like wow That played like outspoken but the Reason why directions like that is Everyone's sort of quiet no one wants to

Voice their opinions we have someone Like Troy deeney who voices voices Concerns a zaha i confirmware it's free Out of that how many so that's my take In it what's yours yeah not enough Players want to speak That I have to commend and and give Thanks really and really proud of like The contributors that come on like any Like I can fenwa I like zaha like Lukaku I did these guys come out and and spoken I understand why some people don't want To speak because I say it in a Documentary I'm tired of talking about This man it's draining yeah I mean like It's going over old Grant all the time And So some of the players don't want to Talk for that reason and some of them Are saying why am I going to talk if Nothing gets done I'm wasting breath I'm Wasting my time because nothing gets Done look at the three boys that got Abused what's happened after that look At when sanso got abused look at when This happened look what what happens the Authorities don't seem to to have the Will to really want to change this yeah So why am I going to talk yeah and then Take the Flack that comes with it maybe The the spotlight the attention I don't Want all that I need it so I understand That but then if we all do that then This problem stays there for another 50s

Or 100 years So When we approached some play it was About trying to just tell them and Convey to them that this isn't just like A documentary for like for me as my ego Or for Just to say our racism's a problem in a Game or mental Health's a problem or Sexuality problem in the game whatever It was more about yes it's highlighting The issues but What solutions could we get in motion To help start the eradication process And try to start the healing with these Situations and start seeing a better Outcome for these situations than the People involved and that was the big Thing for us and I think we're We're on the right Journey with that We'll see once this drops uh it's Received but I think The fact that I'm now going into to Board meetings at board level with the Premier League one of the stakeholders In the game Says that okay something's something's Clicking yeah but by no means are we at A point we go it's done we've achieved What we wanted to achieve this is just a Start and I think that was important you Know in terms of the player who said oh You know real I can't do it but someone Was saying I spoke to my team I really

Decided it's just not not a thing we can Do it's mainly that it's mainly like my Agent said like I can't do it a lot of Problems were the agents I have to be Honest it's not necessarily the players Sometimes you don't even get to the Player yeah Because I'm respectful like I'll talk to The agent sometimes instead of the Players players are concentrating the Game some players I went to But mainly I'm speaking to agents and They're like no I don't want they don't I don't want them to be seen like in in Some place I don't want they don't need To focus they don't need the attention I'm like why you ain't really about the Player yeah this ain't about the playoff For sure this is about them Helping the Next Generation the next Person who hasn't got the resources of An agent or support system around them Or the financial resources around them To to help them yeah in these situations If the people got down the pyramid that I want you to speak for yeah and that Wasn't really grasped by enough agents And enough people in the game to come Forward and see listen we had a round Table I invited how many clubs did we Invite every single Cate every single Cat 18 We invited to a round table in a hotel Nice hotel nice coffee nice tea nice

Food food everything brunch laid on Four four or five teams turned up And I'm sitting there thinking I Understand on one hand The apprehension and uh People make documentaries all the time And it's a bit of an area where we don't Want to be vulnerable we are our image And our brand is at stake I understand That but That female I played the game I was in The game there's an element of trust I'm Not trying to stitch anyone up they must Load up with me And also bigger than that is the issue Yeah for sure but for whatever reason These people didn't turn up and and Testament again to the clubs that did Some are doing good work some are on the Road some were learning some wanted to Learn yeah but it was good to see that The the They know about it mental health this Was this this episode and they're really Trying to to move the dial on it and but It's about communicating and talking man Without these conversations the dial Don't move no sure like recent example I've been telling you right where you Put out that um screenshot on his Twitter I was even thinking oh my goodness I'm Not like this is terrible I was freaking Oh another one I'm sleeping again

Tapping again what's gonna come with it Nothing really you know I mean that's me Thinking like bless the common consensus I think oh on this documentary we were Filming most of the people were talking To it experienced racism was like Nothing happens though yeah so And also if if you do report what you'd Like to pick you have to report it for Anyone to be prosecuted you've got to go And report it so you've got to relive The whole experience again and again Yeah and again So that that can't be right yeah jereme You shouldn't have to relive that Experience on average week to know you Like British people would be Twitter or Your DMs on Instagram often during the Course of a week it depends I think that We what we found as well with the data And we work with a good company Signified back on this is it's like it Is driven a lot by incidents as well or Reaction to certain incidents Um so it's like around a certain goal or A certain moment in in the game or by What I might say on in my punditry then You'll see stuff like that Um but also like I'm not of the type of Person sitting there searching and Scrolling through my my social media for For all this stuff obviously sometimes It's there and you you can't not see it Yeah but um it's hard to just boil it

Down to like uh how many a week types Yeah well for sure you mentioned in a Doc Um You didn't see which club or how old you Are but you're out training and someone Said something to you yeah Um how did you find experience Yeah it was it was about I got into like Almost a fight that I really would have Bought it but it was The club dealt with it well to be fair Okay which was good at the time the club The kid got told not to come back Um I ended up leaving and didn't stay There but it was It was dealt with in the right way after I initially was like I said listen that That's why we were getting into it like That because the boy said this Um But it wasn't the first time I'd Experienced racism so it wasn't like oh What what is that what's that's a Surprise so it was I don't know man when you're a young Black boy and you're growing up and you Experience racism it's like You ain't shocked by it unfortunately It's true yeah I just like I'm not Shocked by racism I'm not shocked by People's ignorance I know it's there It's just that you're shocked that it's Not being dealt with the right way yeah

After all this time how old are you when You first experience like racism Probably about seven or eight years old You know for you like I told you I can't Remember both from similar backgrounds So obviously you're packing my Brixton Right my parents are Caribbean my mom Always gave me the talk be careful this Could happen if it happens act a certain Way I don't please come into my house And do it close to the main one please Yeah please come into my house yeah I Mean so um For you did your parents give you that Talk as well when you're younger yeah Especially after that moment because Obviously your parents are waiting to Gauge when's the right time and when You're capable of taking in that Information And it was it was a a neighbor a couple Of doors up that I was riding my back Out underneath their window on the Landing on the on the on the flats and I Heard the lady say something And I went I didn't it felt like it was At me but I didn't understand what the Words meant so I went to my mum and said Mum what does this word mean Like how you know that word and I said Oh the lady said it there so my mum went Down and kicked through the woman's door Dragged the woman and then whatever but That was the first time that I've I knew

Because my mom's reaction that that Didn't work don't get said yeah and so It's yeah from that point on it was like Almost like you don't even need to Explain him I remember playing football On my local state obviously I was not Good at football I was terrible I Followed right back really beautiful and This white guy says I think it's me Right and then I said oh Mom you're not Playing football and it's white guy says Off things like what I bet him are you still downstairs she Went downstairs you know roughed him up The Caribbean away and she's like don't Ever accept my friend again and it's Like but most people have got Experiences like that people of color I Think it's it's but the disappointing Thing where it happened without time is Unfortunate when we were younger but you Like I'm talking like 30 I'm gonna show my age yeah I know but Like I'm talking like 35 years ago man Like and we're still having the same Conversation now like it just doesn't Make sense yeah sadly for me really I Think I think this is still gonna keep Happening I really do like I really do I'll give an example right psalm 28. and I have two examples of me dealing with Like a comment where I'm like does that Really just happen so I'm in my first Day at Uni we're all going around like

Similar environment like this talking About our Journeys how old we are where We're from and then this white guy Coming to me and says I've been to Prison that's the first thing she asked Me have I been to prison and I have to Laugh it off and I'll mark you earlier Keep on composure I have to laugh off I Can't be like what enough you asking me Because if I last shot I'll get angry Hard angry back here though look at this Guy just like everyone else so the first Time like what on Earth are you doing The second time I was at an Athletics Event in Sheffield And then I get my accreditation and she Says to me we don't get faces like you Around here much and again I had to keep my composure you know I Mean I can't lash out and I saw when you Go through stuff like ignorance yeah Ignorant Behavior but that's what goes Back to what we when we're filming this Is that what some of the learnings is That like these topics need to be Approached with a unified approach yeah Like the players need to come together And be together to combat this type of Thing and I'm not saying they're going To change it in an instance but we went To LA and you're seeing like the NBA Teams the way that they deal with this The NBA players there's an issue in the NBA that the players ain't happy with

And it revolves around race or Inequality Etc they are on it these Players come together and they are one Voice All of them one voice together and and happens About Collective like everyone everyone Coming together yeah and these the the Players And that was the importance of making This as well the players you you can Tell people it's like kids you can tell Your kids something when your kids see Something yeah they take it indifferent They receive it differently and Hopefully this documentaries could be a Part could play out like that a little Bit for the players to so actually Together we can make some impact we can Get in the doors and be at the table and Have a voice yeah have your kids seen The documentary and if so what's been Their feedback so no not yet it was my Son who's in it a little rush of it and He said dad my trim come on you didn't Tell me my film is disgusting that well No no seriously no he had no skin for He's devastated and he's like quite into His haircuts and that now he was Absolutely devastated but um no no again That's another reason I make these Things because I love making Documentaries Um

My kids is educational for them as well And the authenticity that comes with Making these documentaries and this is What I really love this I want to do This more with with with football Especially with teams with players Um and just bring that real authentic Value to the screens which I think we do Um I want to take your mind back to the Euros right because uh when Saka Sancho And massive it's depending obviously you Recorded um you know being at the game And whatnot for you right when one Second Miss what was the first thing That came to your mind oh Well oh as in England yeah another First thing after after I settled down I Was like brah Pretty better brace himself That's the first one yeah better be Ready but we're ready I don't even think Oh no English I've lost I thought no I Thought first of all England have lost An oh my God and then within a couple of Minutes I was like brah I wonder if he's Gonna go on social media because he's Going to get he's gonna get roasted and It happened it happened all three of Them you know what I mean and it's like Because I'm not sure if she does like a A YouTube video like um the actor for Get out rashford and I think LeBron all Talking about experiences I mean the Actor said I can't remember his name

Like you know when you're doing all your Black person it's amazing you know what I mean but the moment you're not doing So great there's like emphasis in your Color Now that when you're doing really well I Found this when I played football even At the time you're doing really well and You're fine and people don't see your Color And the moment you do something wrong or You fail at something like you missed a Penalty you're seen as black yeah And the tone changes yeah and the Outlook and then how people see you Changes and that was evident in a way That the guards were treated after the Mr penalties because before that they're All heroes everyone's shouting their Name Sterling Etc black players they'll Pull them all sorts of England they Ain't you you lot yeah