Van Persie recalls as a 14 year-old how he could so easily have been tempted away from the demands if the game.
He told the News of the World: "My life could easily have been completely different.
"I came from a very rough neighbourhood in Rotterdam where there were so many cultures all mixed together. I was one of the only white Dutch guys there - my friends were from Africa, Surinam, Morocco, Turkey.
"And, of course, there were distractions. Like when I was younger and was in a shop buying candy - I would pay for one but then take another one. I did that sort of thing here and there. We were kids and we all did it. But when I got to 14, I found myself at a crossroads in my life.
"I could have easily gone astray. I saw people doing stupid things - my team-mates, my colleagues, my friends. For instance, my friends tried to make me have a drink, have a cigarette and stuff - well, you know, it was Holland.
"But I was always more interested in football, that was what I wanted to do more than anything. So I never did those things. I never went to that dark side. It would have been easy to have done it - half the team was doing it, most of my friends were doing it. But I did not.
"I just felt it was not right to smoke, to drink, when you are just 14. Everyone told me to try it but I always said 'no'. And the other day I looked at a picture of my under-14s football team and I looked at the ones who were doing those things and also at the ones who weren't.
"And do you know what? The ones who did it - none of them made it!"