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The Rio Ferdinand issue: editorial | Football | The Guardian

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The Observer Rio Ferdinand

The Rio Ferdinand issue

Rio Ferdinand

Sat 31 Jan 2009 19.01 EST First published on Sat 31 Jan 2009 19.01 EST

When I was a kid growing up in Peckham, me and my friends used to sit up till mad hours talking about what we'd like to do in the future. It was always, "If you make it as a footballer would you try to do something for this area?" And we would say, "I'd never leave, I'll live here for the rest of my life." But you get into the real world, you start playing football, and you realise you're not able to live in the same environment for a number of different reasons. So you do eventually move on, but you don't forget.

When I was asked to guest edit Observer Sport Monthly, I invited a few big sports stars to go back to where they grew up and talk about how it has changed. I wanted to make people understand that a lot of the people that make it in their field - whether they are a sportsman, a lawyer, or the prime minister - are not given anything. A lot of hard work and sacrifices have to be put in.

Still, it was pretty strange to sit down for a cup of tea with Gordon Brown in Downing Street. When you meet him, he's a totally different character to the one you see on TV. He's really comfortable to be around, and I enjoyed his company. His passion for football is up there with millions around the country. He answered my questions honestly. Now I've got him on speed-dial on my phone, I can talk to him whenever I want.

Another person I definitely wanted to feature in the issue was Barack Obama. He's someone whose whole campaign was about change and that was the first thing that attracted me. There's also a report from Uganda where I have a soccer school, on why East Africa fails to produce top footballers.

I hope you enjoy the issue. I was apprehensive at the start, but stuff like this always intrigues me and I don't agree with pigeonholing yourself. I've always been a little bit against the grain. Who would have thought a kid from an estate in Peckham would have gone to ballet school?

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