Manchester United had the best team in Europe and won all of football’s major prizes while Rio Ferdinand was playing, which the player puts down to hard work, top talent and… video games?
“How people would play in a game, those traits would come through in football,” the ex-England international tells Radio 1 Newsbeat.
Playing games like SOCOM – a tactical shooting game – and Fifa helped with “team bonding” and was a “big, integral part” of the team’s most successful era, according to Rio.
“I can only speak for myself, it helped us,” he says – adding that gaming should be encouraged for the England team.
“If it could help Gareth Southgate then he should get involved.”
Rio’s part of a new campaign, Get Smart About P.L.A.Y, aiming to get parents more involved in their children’s gaming habits.
“I had no idea you could put timers on – and get notifications when they’re buying things,” Rio says.
“Until you can get all of that, you don’t really have a proper grasp of what they’re doing.”
‘It’s tough love’
There have been concerns that things like loot boxes in games – where players don’t know what’s in a box until they’ve paid money for it – resemble gambling, with calls for younger gamers to be banned from using them.
The UK Interactive Entertainment Association (Ukie) wants parents to play games with their children and keep up to date with the time and money being spent on them.
Although his professional football career has ended, the former Manchester United defender is still enjoying his virtual one, playing Fifa regularly with his kids.
“I don’t let them win, they need to understand it’s tough love in this house.”
But he says he has strict rules to avoid them spending all night on consoles.
He says a lot of people “shove their kids on the computer for an easy life”, but he prefers to keep up to date with how they are gaming.
While his old team were on the road, Rio assures us he usually won the gaming competitions held in their hotel rooms.
“I’m good, I’m very good.”
He says that if you were playing with someone who’s “selfish” on the pitch, you knew what the outcome would be on the console.
If he needed help from his teammates in a first-person shooter game, certain players would be “off doing their own thing”.
“That’s normally a number nine on the pitch, a striker.”
He’s still a big fan of Fifa, but doesn’t think the feeling is reciprocated.
“I’ve made it known because they did undervalue my pace quite a lot, and my passing.”
So now that’s he’s retired and only available as an “Icon” in one of the game’s online modes, is he still bothered?
“I’ve asked for the Fifa fella’s number about 100 times,” he says. “Nobody’s given it to me.”
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