Arsenal forward Robin van Persie has revealed that football saved him from straying off the straight and narrow when he was a youngster.
The 26-year-old has made a scintillating start to the 2009/10 campaign, with his seven goals and seven assists guiding the Gunners to second spot in the Premier League standings.
However, he has conceded that his career could have taken a very different direction following a childhood littered with unwise temptations.
"My life could easily have been completely different," he said in the News of the World.
"I came from a very rough neighbourhood in Rotterdam where there were so many cultures all mixed together."
The Dutch international, who has 40 caps for his country, was in influential form for Arsene Wenger's outfit yet again last weekend, setting up Cesc Fabregas to score Arsenal's third in a 4-1 win at Wolverhampton Wanderers.
But Van Persie - who has become an idol at the Emirates Stadium following more than 100 league outings - admitted he was not always the role model he is today.
"Of course there were distractions," he said.
"My friends tried to make me have a drink, have a cigarette and stuff. But I was always more interested in football, that was what I wanted to do more than anything.
"I never went to that dark side. It would have been easy to have done it – half the team was doing it, most of my friends were doing it.
"The other day I looked at a picture of my U14s football team and I looked at the ones who were doing those things and also at the ones who weren’t.
"And do you know what? The ones who did it – none of them made it!"comments