11 footballers who went into politics: Romario, Pavlyuchenko, Pelé…

Quick Reads

Footballers tend to go into coaching or punditry after their playing days if they decide against a quieter retirement playing golf – but a smaller number have turned their hand to politics.

The two professions are – or at least should be – completely mutually exclusive, but footballers heading into politics has almost become weirdly common.

They’ve enjoyed…mixed….levels of success.

Romario

The 1994 World Cup winner was elected to the Chamber of Deputies in Brazil in 2010, became a senator in 2014 and in 2018 ran for the governor’s post in the state of Rio De Janeiro, finishing in fourth place.

To his credit, a lot of Romario’s work has been focused on corruption in football – with the former attacker very outspoken against the 2014 Brazil World Cup.

Pelé

Not content with being a scout for Fulham, Pelé has also served as Brazil’s extraordinary sports minister.

He even created the ‘Pelé law’, which sought to reduce corruption in Brazilian football, but left the post in 2001 after being caught up in a corruption scandal himself. He has also worked for UNESCO and the UN since retiring.

READ: Trying to work out how and why Pelé became a scout for Fulham

Sol Campbell

Amid his long search for a manager’s job, Campbell also made it quite clear that he is a member of the Conservative party.

He considered running for office in 2014, before throwing his name into the ring when the elections for the Mayor of London were being discussed – but he didn’t make the Tories’ shortlist.

Hakan Sukur

A quite remarkable tale has led the affectionately known ‘Bull of Bosphorus’ from becoming the all-time top scorer for both Galatasaray and Turkey to being exiled to the US, unable to return home.

Choosing to go into politics when his career came to an end, Sukur became an MP for the ruling party, sharing a close relationship with its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and cleric Fethullah Gulen – the trio were pictured together at Sukur’s first wedding.

Sukur chose to leave the party and remain an independent MP in 2013, as tensions grew between ‘Gulenists’, who wanted Turkey to become a more Islamic state, and Erdogan’s rule.

In 2016, Gulen was blamed for a failed coup and any supporter or person found to be connected to him was arrested, and Sukur fled to America.

He was also being charged with insulting the country’s president on Twitter, and for all his charges – which include being a suspected member of an armed terror group – could face the death penalty if he ever returned.

Roman Pavlyuchenko

Not content with being a hot prospect in Russia on the verge of a move to the Premier League, Pavlyuchenko decided to take up a seat on his local city council.

One pessimistic commentator suggested it was only because the financial crisis at the time affected his wages, but Pavlyuchenko said: “I am ready to help with advice and with a concrete contribution to the development possibilities for exercise and sport.”

Gianni Rivera

Only three players have made more appearances for AC Milan than Rivera, and he went on to become the club’s vice president after retiring.

He went on to become an MP, serve as an under-secretary of defence and was a member of European parliament between 2005 and 2009.

Kakha Kaladze

Retiring in 2012, Kaladze became an MP in October of the same year, serving as Deputy Prime Minister as well as Minister for Energy, in his homeland of Georgia.

He left office in 2017 in order to run for Mayor of Tblisi, winning the election in November.

George Weah

It may have seemed to come out of nowhere when Weah was elected as Liberia’s president, but his political career had been in the working for years.

The former PSG, AC Milan and Monaco striker ran for the presidency in 2005, being told he wasn’t educated enough and henceforth taking himself to America to earn a degree.

In 2014, after another failed presidency bid, he was elected to the Senate, and on his third attempt Weah was finally sworn in as president in January 2018.

READ: A forensic analysis of George Weah’s solo goal against Verona

Grzegorz Lato

The top scorer at the 1974 World Cup, Lato’s 11-year career as a manager ended when he chose to run for political office in Poland.

He was a member of the Democratic Left Alliance, acting as a senator for four years before being elected head of the Polish FA, sacking manager Leo Beenhaker live on TV after the country failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup.

Titi Camara

Former Liverpool and West Ham man Camara returned to his native Guinea after retiring, briefly managing the national team in 2009 before becoming the first ex-sportsman to hold a government post in the country.

He was appointed sports minister by the country’s new and current president Alpha Conde, though Camara was replaced less than two years later in a cabinet reshuffle.

Viktor Orban

If you like Football Manager 2006 and fancy a Prime Minister in your defence, Orban is your man.

Currently in his second spell as Hungary’s PM, he was once a professional at hometown club Felcsut, before going on to help set up the Ferenc Puskas Football Academy – one of the most modern in the world – and helping Sepp Blatter in the creation of the Puskas Award.


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