Rio Ferdinand, Bobby Zamora and Mark Noble are three of the most recognisable English footballers in recent history.
The trio – who have amassed over 1,000 Premier League appearances between them – have all played for West Ham at some point during their career.
But their connection to the capital runs far deeper than being former Hammers – each grew up on London council estates, and are putting the financial rewards of their football careers to good use.
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Ferdinand, Zamora and Noble are teaming up in a bid to boost the provision of social and affordable housing when leaders of the property world come to the UK’s most prestigious real estate conference in London’s Olympia.
In partnership with Central Bedfordshire council and Aviva Investors, the three stars are each set to contribute at least £100,000 of their own money every year towards a £400 million project to build 1,300 homes on a 22-hectare site in a run-down area in Houghton Regis near Luton.
The initiative is the latest charitable act since Ferdinand, Zamora and Noble unveiled their Legacy Foundation for the purpose of constructing a series of social and privately rentable housing schemes with the backing of private investors.
Noble – who is familiar with the struggle of trying to find somewhere to live – says the project is designed to make a real difference to the lives of those in need.
“We want to create something special,” said the West Ham skipper, as per the Guardian. “I moved seven times in four years in social housing in east London [as a kid]. We know what it feels like. We used to see the ‘no ball games’ signs everywhere. Our motto is to have a sign saying ‘all ball games allowed’.
“At first we were thinking 20, 30 homes, but then we realised that wouldn’t make a difference to anyone. We want to make a big difference in housing.”
Several other footballers adopt a more profitable outlook on property investment, such as Premier League legends Gary Neville, Ryan Giggs and Robbie Fowler.
The two former Manchester United stars are currently in a row with Historic England over their plans to demolish an entire block in Manchester’s city centre to build a five-star hotel and a split-level public plaza.
Fowler, too, is in charge of a buy-to-let property empire spanning Cardiff to Scotland and runs £1,000 masterclasses to help people become millionaires.