Rio Ferdinand spotted at youth football festival in Norfolk
PUBLISHED: 13:14 07 May 2018 | UPDATED: 12:09 08 May 2018
Football-crazed youngsters were starstruck when a Manchester United legend turned up at the youth tournament they were playing in and shouted support from the sidelines.
Rio Ferdinand was spotted at the SCI Youth Football Tournament in Bradwell, near Great Yarmouth over the weekend. The former Manchester United centre-back was at the event to support his son who was playing in the tournament.
Gemma Bullen, whose son Jack Holmes was competing with Shrublands Juniors FC, said: “I’ve never been to a football festival that was so busy with parents. There was a really good buzz for the children and it helped give a boost to the local teams and local people.”
Ms Bullen, from Gorleston, praised the BT Sport pundit for the way he dealt with the attention. She said: “He was fantastic – his son was playing in the tournament so he was down to support him.
“He asked people to be respectful when his son was playing so he could focus on the game and encourage him. But when his son’s team were not playing he was taking photographs with everyone and signing autographs.”
Ms Bullen’s son and nephew Tay Chapman were among those who met the defender.
She said: “He asked if they were enjoying themselves and who they supported. Tay supports West Ham and Jack supports Manchester United – Rio laughed and told them Manchester was the better team and joked with them before saying they were both good clubs to support.
“They were so awestruck and excitable afterwards.”
The former England international, who earned 81 caps, also took the opportunity to impart some of his wisdom.
Ms Bullen added: “He went round and spoke to the local teams – giving them advice and just general chit-chat. And when people began packing up he had a little kick about with the local children.”
While Ferdinand’s presence may have been the main talking point at the tournament it had the added benefit of encouraging more people to come down and support those playing.
She said: “It gave people extra incentive to come down and support the children. The number of people down there spoke for itself – the morale was absolutely amazing.”