Dubai: US rapper Akon revealed that he once wanted to be like Brazilian footballing great Ronaldinho, before turning to music.

Explaining the reason why his native Africa has such good footballers, he said it was because they have always looked up to Brazilian stars such as Ronaldinho and company.

The 43-year-old, who was born in the US but spent much of his childhood in Senegal, was a surprise guest at a press conference to announce the regional expansion of Ronaldinho’s academy in association with Duplays at the Burj Al Arab on Wednesday.

Akon also said he hoped to work with the 36-year-old former Barcelona star in Africa where he has a number of humanitarian projects.

“I’ve always been a huge fan of Ronaldinho,” said the artist, who is famous for tracks like ‘Smack That’ and ‘Lonely’.

“Growing up in Africa, Brazil always had all the players that we wanted to be, and that’s why we have so many amazing African players, because we looked up to Brazilian players.

“And with Ronaldinho being one of the best players in the world, I hope I can share his success and live through him, because I wanted to be a soccer player growing up, but when I went to the US my soccer playing just wasn’t successful so I had to choose music.

“I hope we can get involved now because if you look at African children running around, this is literally the best way out, utilising their skills to move forward, and when I heard what Ronaldinho was doing with his academy I wanted to find a way for us to partner in Africa.”