EVERY so often, a story comes up which seems so ludicrous that it’s hard to believe it could possibly be true. But apparently, Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand is aiming to become a national table tennis champion.
Ferdinand was a keen table tennis player in his youth, and reckons he’s better at the sport than any of his fellow footballers. It seems we’ll soon get to find out if he is.
That’s because Ferdinand has signed up to play in an all-star table tennis tournament at the Royal Albert Hall on March 17, which is also set to include Andrew Flintoff, Damon Albarn and Reading midfielder James Harper. An eclectic mix, you might say.
Reading had two players who wanted to take part in the tournament, so they had to have a play-off. Harper and goalkeeper Marcus Hahnemann faced each other, with former Commonwealth champion Matthew Syed acting as referee.
Harper’s victory means he will be a part of the all-star tournament, to take place alongside the Dunlop Masters (which will feature the real stars of table tennis) at the Royal Albert Hall.
But it’s Ferdinand’s involvement that is particularly fascinating.
“I’m always on the lookout for someone to really challenge me, but I haven’t found anyone yet,” he said. “I do believe I am the best footballer to play table tennis.”
Ferdinand, though, has already been told to put his money where his mouth is by Southend manager Steve Tilson, who has represented Essex at table tennis and still plays in a local league.
And it has emerged that West Ham striker Craig Bellamy and Newcastle’s Michael Owen are also keen players of the sport.
It is perhaps the most bizarre example of footballers crossing over into other sports since Sam Allardyce played in a qualifier for the UK Open darts championship at the Royal Oak pub in Chorlton five years ago.
Ah yes, Sam Allardyce . . . whatever happened to him?