I would like to believe that I am more than just Rio's brother, says St. Mirren defender Anton Ferdinand

I would like to believe that I am more than just Rio's brother, says St. Mirren defender Anton Ferdinand

He is not Rio, they would say. Sure, he had completed the same academy in West Ham, played in the same style and played at a professional level.

By surviving the cemetery of the English football youth system, he had accomplished more than most could have dreamed. When he was well, the talent was there for him to play for England.

Just like his brother. But on every corner, on every landmark, came the comparison and the memory. He was not Rio.

Anton Ferdinand wants to save St. Mirren from a sad start to the season

Anton Ferdinand wants to save St. Mirren from a sad start to the season

Anton Ferdinand wants to save St. Mirren from a sad start to the season

The athletic achievements of an older sibling are a strange thing. In a sense, they are victories that inspire, benchmark, and the successes of success have been the joy of seeing the victory of their loved ones.

Should a sibling decide to follow in their footsteps, these accomplishments become the context in which their entire career is inevitably compared.

For Anton Ferdinand, this maxim played out in a decidedly more public environment than most will ever experience.

Rio has retired long ago, but Anton still strives to shape the game himself

His grown-up heroes did not differ from those of many young defenders at the turn of the century.

Paolo Maldini, Alessandro Costacurta and Fernando Hierro are the first to come to mind. And of course Rio.

"He was the best in the world in my position," says Anton. "And he was my brother."

By the time Anton made his professional debut for West Ham, Rio was six-and-a-half years older than he was – with Manchester United title winner.

He had played for his country 32 times and was the most expensive defender in the world – twice. After fifteen years, Rio is long since retired, but Anton is still keen to shape the game. Six weeks ago, St. Mirren became the eighth club of his career.

Ferdinand (right) completed the same academy in West Ham as his brother

Ferdinand (right) completed the same academy in West Ham as his brother

Ferdinand (right) completed the same academy in West Ham as his brother

"It was hard," he says. "But I like to think that I am no longer Rio's brother, I am Anton Ferdinand and I had a fantastic career myself.

"People said," Oh, he's just because of his brother in the Premier League. "You do not play eleven years in the Premier League if you're just someone's brother, you're not being bought for 8 million pounds if you're somebody's brother, you have to be good enough."

It's a hard feeling to argue about it. So much so that his next testimony, having created his own career and setting his claim in a family where cousin Les had already left a considerable mark, is a special surprise.

"It was probably my downfall that came from Rio's shadow," Anton reflects. "It was a big deal for me, I relaxed too much because it was such a big achievement."

The costs? "I should have played for England," he says. "I joined the central defender at the same time as Sol Campbell, Rio, John Terry, Jamie Carragher, Jonny Woodgate and Ledley King. That's six of the best. It was hard.

The defender talks to George Bond of Sportsmail in the locker room at St. Mirren Park

The defender talks to George Bond of Sportsmail in the locker room at St. Mirren Park

The defender talks to George Bond of Sportsmail in the locker room at St. Mirren Park

"When I came out of Rio, I relaxed far too much and became inconsistent. That's why I never played for England.

"I just missed the 2006 World Cup, and Sven Goran-Eriksson wanted me to meet with the team if someone was injured.

"But I just had a double hernia operation after the FA Cup final I could not go That would have changed my career in many ways – I've never cried so much in my life."

Ferdinand is now 33 years old and the end of his career is getting closer. His dreams of winning that elusive England hat are reluctantly missed by what might have been.

His first focus is on saving Saints after a sad start to the current Premiership season. However, he is aware of the need to determine his long-term future.

In addition to training for his coaching badges, Ferdinand has "a number of things" in the pipeline. This includes entering the world of financial literacy, an instrument that allows players to save money.

Few of us in the "normal" world could understand the riches of top footballers, not to mention that an incredible 40 percent of them fall into financial ruin.

"I know first-hand," says Anton. "You get all this money at a young age and do not know what to do with it.

"Sometimes the advice of a person you can trust is not the best, you do not understand the language they use.

"The game has to take responsibility. The clubs give these guys a lot of money and say, "Go and do what you want."

"They talk about depression and mental health – many of them are due to retirement and money problems – they can not end retirement, but you can stop money problems."

The last few years have been among the hardest in Ferdinand's life. His mother Janice was lost to cancer last year just two years after the tragic death of his brother Rebecca's wife. Rio has described his own fight in detail and tried a new career in boxing to escape the pain he experienced.

Considering the inherently public tribal nature of professional football, there may be few areas of work where mental health is a more difficult issue.

After Aaron Lennon – a former U21 English team-mate from Anton – was arrested under the Mental Health Act last year, Ferdinand believes the subject must become part of the locker room language.

"It's hard to talk about," he says. "And that's why people get mental problems because they do not want to talk." Because of the persona involved in playing football, we can not talk or show our feelings because you look weak, especially as a defender, a tough guy, everything what you have, you have shown your emotions, you are weak. & # 39;

To change attitudes in the often hostile atmosphere of football, however, fans and players alike must act. After the unfortunately still most prominent moment of Anton he was targeted by online fans.

The victim of alleged racist abuse by Terry – Rio's longtime center-back England midfielder – was hounded by Anton when Terry fired the English captain.

"Nobody deserves death threats," he says. "No matter what the situation is. I had her you have to take the rough with the sleek. If you're a professional footballer and posting on social media, this is life. Death threats go beyond what you must tolerate.

"When I was young, my icons (Brazilians) were Ronaldo, Paul Ince, Rio. Now every player is an icon because of social media. It's easy to reach in social media.

"People say it's awesome, you can interact with your fans – but not every fan likes you.

"As role models, we need to show people how to handle it, when to take retaliation, and when not. It is difficult. But sometimes silence is louder than words. "

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