Rio Ferdinand defends decision to fly to Qatar to be a pundit for San Marino v England game

Rio Ferdinand withdrew from England's squad but will offer punditry on the game for a broadcaster. Photo: PA

Rio Ferdinand has defended his decision to fly out to Qatar in the week he withdrew from the England squad in order to follow a pre-planned fitness routine.

Manchester United defender Ferdinand was called up by England manager Roy Hodgson for the forthcoming World Cup qualifiers against San Marino and Montenegro but pulled out on Monday, citing the need to follow the fitness plan laid out by his club.

It has now emerged that the 34-year-old will visit the Aspire training academy in Doha and then appear as a pundit for Al Jazeera television in the Gulf state for the San Marino match tomorrow night.

Ferdinand's call-up, which came as a surprise to the player and his club, was his first involvement with the national team since he won his 81st cap in a Euro 2012 qualifier at home to Switzerland in June 2011.

The defender was controversially left out of the squad for the finals in Poland and Ukraine last summer, with England boss Roy Hodgson insisting it was for football reasons.

The Ferdinand family had been at the centre of a long-running racism row with John Terry, who was picked for Euro 2012 but has since retired from international football, and the Manchester United player believed that was the real reason behind his omission.

Hodgson was keen to stress on Monday that the door remained open to Ferdinand for future matches, and he reaffirmed his desire to play for England again.

The defender said: "One thing I made clear was that my passion and commitment to represent my country is as strong as ever.

"It is disappointing that I won't be able to play a part in the upcoming games but I told Roy that I want to continue to be available for England and I look forward to working with him in the future."

Rio Ferdinand defends his punditry role on Twitter. Credit: Twitter