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Page last updated at 18:07 GMT, Monday, 9 June 2008 19:07 UK

Ferdinand in Nigerian pledge

By Oluwashina Okeleji
BBC Sport, Lagos

England defender Rio Ferdinand has pledged to assist charities and act as an inspiration to young children in a visit to the Nigerian city of Lagos.

Rio Ferdinand in Lagos
Ferdinand meeting schoolchildren at a ground in Lagos

Ferdinand, 29, has been promoting education through football and making plans to build an academy.

He completed a two-day tour of Lagos at the invitation of the state governor Babatunde Raji Fashola.

After visiting some of the city's orphanges Ferdinand said: "I came here to inspire children, I feel obliged to give them hope that they can become important people, not only in football but in life as well."

"As a parent, I've got a young family now and it puts it all in perspective really. It makes it worthwhile to come to a place like this to help.

"Some of these kids are just clinging onto life and not sure of what happens tomorrow.

Ferdinand visited some of the homes on Friday and was so moved by their conditions that he vowed to help them improve.

"I want to help attract wealthy business people to put money in all these charities and schemes just to give these kids a chance."

Governor Babatunde Fashola said Ferdinand's visit to Nigeria would help launch the Lagos Street Soccer Championship.

There are huge talents here that can be as big as Yakubu or Kanu, they just need someone to make them believe in themselves

Rio Ferdinand

"This government aims to inspire the young by mentoring and bringing them close to role models like Rio Ferdinand," Fashola told BBC Sport.

"Engagement of young people in productive ventures such as sport would take children away from vices like drugs and violence."

It is a line the Manchester United ace agrees with: "There are huge talents here that can be as big as Yakubu [Ayegbeni] or bigger than Kanu [Nwankwo], they just need someone to inspire them and make them believe in themselves.

"With what I have seen, I can help build an academy here that will see the best of Nigerian talent realise their dreams of being a professional footballer.

"The power of football here is unbelievable, everyone I see here are either Manchester United, Arsenal or Chelsea supporters. Everyone's got football shirts on."

Rio Ferdinand in Lagos
Ferdinand was struck by Nigerans' passion for football

Ferdinand had the rare chance of meeting the traditional ruler of Lagos, King Rilwan Akiolu who bestowed on him the title of "Chief Fiwagboye".

During the ceremony at his palace in Lagos, King Akiolu told the surprised defender that Fiwagboye literally means "character maketh wealth."

"To be honest, I was a little embarrassed to be named a Chief, I'm not sure I'm worthy but it is something to be proud of really," Ferdinand said.

Ferdinand is expected back in Nigeria with Manchester United later this month for an invitational tournament that will also involve Premier League side Portsmouth.

But one certainty on his next trip is that he will be treated as a Chief and not just a footballer.

see also
Ferdinand signs new Man Utd deal
18 Apr 08 |  Man Utd
Rio Ferdinand comes of age
26 Mar 08 |  Internationals
The footballing Black List
24 Mar 08 |  Football

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