Ferdinand was among a group of invited guests who met Putin at the Kremlin in Moscow, while Britain’s diplomatic relations with Russia are at a new low
Rio Ferdinand held court with Vladimir Putin in Russia on today while back in England the diplomatic row over a deadly nerve-agent incident rages.
The former Manchester United and England captain was joined by footballing legends including Diego Forlan, Lothar Matthaus, Marco van Basten and Peter Schmeichel at the Kremlin in Moscow.
The meeting was also attended by England Ladies star and BBC pundit Alex Scott, FIFA president Gianni Infantino, Mexican Jorge Campos, and Croatian icon Zvonimir Boban. Russia plays Croatiia in the World Cup quarter-final on Saturday.
The group who presented the Russian Premier with a shirt with ‘Putin 11’ on the back in a photo opportunity for Putin.
Ferdinand attended the meeting despite the former England captain having previously been critical of Putin.
In 2015, in the middle of Russia’s crisis with Ukraine, Ferdinand tweeted: “Putin – Obama don’t poke ya nose in our business. Also, if you want to work with us don’t act like you can talk down to us like we are kids.”
Putin – Obama don’t poke ya nose in our business. Also, if you want to work with us don’t act like you can talk down to us like we are kids
— Rio Ferdinand (@rioferdy5) 2:54 PM – Jun 19, 2015
The meeting takes place against a new low in UK-Russian relations.
For the second time, two people have rendered seriously ill on UK soil by the Russian-developed lethal nerve agent Novichok, leading to a renewed international feud.
Dawn Sturgess and Charlie Rowley were hospitalised on Saturday in Amesbury, around eight miles from where the former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia were poisoned with the same substance in Salisbury in March.
Tory MP Tom Tugendhat, chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, has accused Russia of war crimes over the incident.
Russia’s hosting of the World Cup was fiercely opposed by some in the West, who suggested the tournament could be unsafe and used for propaganda.
Putin used the meeting with Ferdinand and Co. to say that Russia’s so-far successful staging of the World Cup has “helped break many stereotypes about Russia”.
“People have seen that Russia is a hospitable country, a friendly one for those who come here,” Putin said.
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“I’m sure that an overwhelming majority of people who came will leave with the best feelings and memories of our country and will come again many times.”
England could actually meet Russia in the semi-finals if both sides come through their respective last-eight ties.
Gareth Southgate’s side take on Sweden on Saturday afternoon as they bid to win the World Cup for the first time since 1966.
Meanwhile, Russia coach Stanislav Cherchesov believes messages of support from Putin provide extra motivation for him and his players.
Putin attended the team’s World Cup opening win against Saudi Arabia and although he has not been present at their other matches he has been keeping in touch with Cherchesov.
“Putin has been calling me. He called me before the Spanish game (in the last 16), and of course when the president supports you it makes you comfortable and the players know this,” he said.
“It is just an extra boost in terms of motivation.”Cherchesov has been boosted by the return of midfielder Alan Dzagoev.
The CSKA Moscow star has not featured since a hamstring injury forced him off after 24 minutes of the 5-0 win over Saudi.
“It is a pity to lose such a player in the first game but he is already training,” said the Russia coach.
“He missed training the day before yesterday but yesterday and today he trained and we will see if I am able to let him play from the first minute.”