“Former Footballers Who Took the Political Path: Driving Change from the Forefront Themselves
Football and politics may seem like an odd match, but for some former footballers, it’s the perfect path to continue their impact on society. While “Keep politics out of football” is a common phrase, others choose to enter the political arena to push for change in their own way. Here are 18 former footballers who have turned their hand to government policy.
Sol Campbell: Ex-Tottenham, Arsenal, and Portsmouth center-back, Campbell dabbled in British politics and was previously aligned with the Conservative Party. He considered running for office in a bid to help secure the ‘black vote’ for the Tories but was unsuccessful in his bid for the Conservative nomination for Mayor of London.
Albert Gudmundsson: Gudmundsson was the first Icelandic player to become a professional player, and he spent his career with multiple clubs. He joined the Independence Party and became councilman for Reykjavik, was elected as an MP four years later, and served in various ministerial roles.
Andrey Arshavin: Arshavin had a go at scoring a political job in Russia and ran for Vladimir Putin’s United Russia in the 2007 regional council elections, but he withdrew to concentrate on football.
Roman Pavlyuchenko: Pavlyuchenko took multitasking to a whole new level, balancing both his role as a Premier League striker and a politician. He secured a seat in his hometown for Putin’s party in 2007, a year before he joined Tottenham.
Marc Wilmots: After hanging up his boots, Wilmots had an unsuccessful stint in Belgian politics as a representative for the Mouvement Réformateur party.
Zico: Part of Brazil’s iconic Selecao side, Zico became the country’s sports minister in 1990. After various managerial spells, he announced his intention to run for the FIFA presidency in 2015 but failed to secure enough backing.
Lilian Thuram: Thuram won pretty much everything he’s ever been involved with, even a debate with the then-UMP party leader Nicolas Sarkozy on national television. Thuram declined the freshly-minted President Sarkozy’s offer of a role as Minister of Diversity.
Grzegorz Lato: The 1974 World Cup Golden Boot winner entered the political cauldron as a senator for the Democratic Left Alliance Party, then took on the role of president for the Polish FA, where he sacked Dutch coach Leo Beenhaker live on television.
Jozsef Bozsik: Part of Hungary’s iconic “Golden Team,” Bozsik was elected to the National Assembly of Hungary while still a footballer in 1953, then later became manager of the Hungary national team.
Pele: Regarded by many as the greatest footballer who ever lived, Pele has enjoyed a diverse career since retiring from the game in 1977. As well as holding positions as a UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and a UN ambassador for ecology and the environment, the former forward spent time as Brazil’s Extraordinary Minister for Sport.
Hakan Sukur: Turkey’s all-time record goalscorer, Sukur won a seat in the Turkish parliament in 2011 as a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party. He resigned from the party two and a half years later but remained an MP as an independent.
Oleg Blokhin: Blokhin is a jack of all trades and master of one or two. The record goalscorer for Dynamo Kiev and the Soviet Union, Blokhin became the first manager to qualify Ukraine for a major tournament and even found time to be elected into the country’s parliament.
These footballers may have left the pitch, but they found a new arena to make meaningful change. Who knows where the next generation of former footballers may take us?”
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