Seedorf: Nothing can stop me
Few players in international football can speak so eloquently or knowledgeably about the state of the game as Clarence Seedorf. Four times a UEFA Champions League winner, with three different clubs, the AC Milan midfielder is also a champion of social justice away from the pitch.
Here he speaks exclusively to FIFA.com about his enduring love of the beautiful game, what he would do to improve football, and about his latest endeavours to make a difference away from the pitch.
FIFA.com: Are you pleased that the 2010 FIFA World Cup will be staged in Africa for the first time?
Clarence Seedorf: I'm very excited by it. It's a dream come true. So many special people have been involved in making this happen - but one man more than any other, Nelson Mandela. To go to South Africa and be involved will be an honour for me.
Do you hope to participate on the pitch?
If I can get back into the Dutch team, it will be even more exciting for me. It's not happening at the moment, but I'm confident it remains a possibility. I'm doing well and I'm available. I don't know Bert van Marjwik (Netherlands coach), but that is maybe a positive thing as it's a chance to start fresh.
Tell us about your involvement with the Nelson Mandela foundation.
I'm working very closely with them on a project called the Champions Playground which should be ready in 2010 just before or after the World Cup. Hopefully Nelson Mandela will be there to open it. Working together with the Western Cape University and the Catholic University in Milan, we've created an educational model for a multipurpose playground. The idea is that it will be not just for young kids, but will involve the community as a whole. South Africa is the starting point but we want to then recreate similar projects in other parts of Africa.
I helped set up a similar venture in Holland, in my home town Almere, together with my former school. It has been active for three years now and has come to be regarded as one of the best playgrounds around. Within three months after it opened, crime levels fell by 30 per cent.
You place a big emphasis on social responsibility. Do you think that your fellow professionals do enough to help those less privileged?
Generally, I'd like to see more people in the world being an inspiration for others, and stretching out a hand to help others who are in need. Being a role model I will always do that, and I will challenge others to take up their responsibilities. Football is the biggest sport in the world, so with that comes a lot of responsibility. We have to show, not just by our words, but by our deeds, that life is about giving to others.
You are also very committed to projects in Suriname, the country of your birth. Tell us about those.
I'm involved in various projects there, with more to come. Hopefully, like Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica, Suriname can reach the World Cup, maybe in 2014, or 2018. That is something that could change the dreams and hopes of the people. Suriname has the talent. I don't know how strong they can be, but there is talent there to be developed. From a commercial point of view, football could help put Suriname on the world map. That's something I've always dreamed of and I hope it can be achieved through our initiatives.
After over a decade as a professional, do you still enjoy the daily involvement in the game?
I enjoy it more than I did 10 years ago. I feel the same passion that I feel every day. In fact I feel better every year. While I feel like this and I still feel I can improve my game nothing can stop me.
Of all the coaches that you have worked with over the years, who has been the biggest influence on you?
I've had so many coaches, and they've all had an influence. Louis Van Gaal gave me my debut [for Ajax] at 16, so showed a lot of trust in me. At Sampdoria, Sven-Goran Eriksson gave me some good lessons - life lessons more than football lessons - he showed me what you need to do to survive outside the comfort zone. Fabio Capello gave me confidence and taught me the importance of structure.
Marcelo Lippi helped me develop my creative impulse. Then at Milan all these things came together under someone who wanted the full package, all the things I'd learnt previously. At Ajax, Sampdoria and Madrid I was still very young. Carlo Ancelotti made the most of my technical abilities, my full potential. Most of all he recognised my best position - playing in a central role behind the forwards. Thanks to that I scored 10 goals a season for 2-3 seasons. That was four more than I normally scored. Changing position had a lot to do with it. Ancelotti and Milan came along at the right time in my career.