Former England captain Rio Ferdinand has kicked off a campaign to stop cuts to youth services.
He is fighting Government proposals to slash resources for children through the Rio Ferdinand Foundation, which supports thousands of teenagers in Manchester and London.
The 37-year-old, who grew up on a council estate in Peckham, south London, said if he had not become a footballer he would have been a youth worker.
"The youth leaders in the community I lived in were inspirational," he told London's Evening Standard.
"They shaped a lot of us with discipline, people skills. They're a huge part of where I've got to today.
"Without those people in place, and the funding that goes behind that, I might have got lost, like a couple of my mates did."
He added: "People home in on crime and violence but the social aspect needs to take more of the spotlight."
Ferdinand said a lot of young people "feel disengaged" with elections because they "don't feel considered".
"The (mayoral) manifestos are out and there isn't much on the front page or the bullet points to do with kids. That speaks volumes for why kids are having to do things like this," he added.
More than 36,000 people have signed the #InvestInYouthWork petition on change.org.
The Rio Ferdinand Foundation runs crime-prevention initiatives, community footballing sessions and training in employment skills for young people.