AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng told Champions magazine that a tough upbringing and a determined older brother have helped him to make his mark as a professional.
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In this extract from an interview in the latest edition of Champions magazine, AC Milan midfielder Kevin-Prince Boateng reflects on his tough upbringing in Berlin and his sporting idols.
What was it like growing up in Berlin?
It's similar to London, to Tottenham maybe. There are a lot of people out of work and a lot of crime. But everybody has struggles in life and mine was to come out of a tough area in Berlin. It helped me a lot on my way to becoming a professional footballer, to being an idol and a good role model. Even the little kids in Berlin look up to me. This is my mission: to show them it's possible to come from a tough background and achieve your goals.
Did you always want to be a professional?
Not really. When you're young, you don't think about what you want to be. I was just playing football because I had fun and enjoyed it. When I reached 16, that's when I was dreaming about becoming a footballer.
Who was the biggest influence on you growing up?
There was always football in my family: my dad, big and little brothers, even my mum used to play. The biggest influence was my older brother, who always pushed me very hard – maybe sometimes too hard – because he never made it as a player. He was a big talent. Growing up this way helped me become a professional footballer.
Who were your football idols?
I've enjoyed watching lots of players, but Pelé was my biggest hero because he was a black person, he scored so many goals and was so incredibly successful. I also liked Rivaldo, because I've always thought I have a similar playing style to him.
Is there anyone you admire outside football?
My biggest idol is Muhammad Ali, and of course Michael Jordan. There are a lot of sportsmen I respect but those two are incredible.
What are your main hobbies outside football?
Basketball is one of my favourite sports, I love playing it and watching it on TV. And I like to sing and dance.
We have seen you moonwalk in front of thousands of people at last season's Scudetto celebrations. Was Michael Jackson an idol too?
He was a hero throughout my youth and even now he's in my life every day, because I still listen to his music. For me he's just the best singer, best writer, best dancer – everything. Everyone copies him. There's a bit of Michael Jackson in every singer and writer. When he died, it was a shock for me. He got me through so many difficult times, because his lyrics can help anybody's difficulties. I made a joke in the dressing room about doing the moonwalk if we won the league and the newspapers picked up on it. But I think it was a good thing to do.
If Milan win Serie A again this season, how do you think you will celebrate?
I'm not promising anything any more! We'll see. First we have to win it – that's the most important thing.
Issue 52 of Champions, the official magazine of the UEFA Champions League, is out now. Subscribe to Champions.