There are certain stereotypes about footballers but a significant number of them are civic-minded and want to make a difference to society.
A few down the years have even entered politics in an effort to improve the world around them. Having a huge profile from exploits on the football pitch can certainly help when it comes to winning votes.
Some players have risen all the way to lead their country, while others didn’t manage to make much headway at all. Here’s what happens when footballers get political…
Weah was one of the most gifted footballers to ever emerge from Africa, enjoying successful stints with leading European clubs Paris Saint-Germain and then AC Milan, as well as winning the Ballon d’Or in 1995.
Unfortunately, Weah never had the opportunity to play at a World Cup as his country Liberia wasn’t strong enough to quality despite his best efforts.
His son Tim, who plays for the United States, has just ensured the Weah family name would be represented at a World Cup in Qatar.
Liberia’s President George Weah (right) embraces his son, Tim, during the World Cup in Qatar
His dad, 56, is now the incumbent president of Liberia, having assumed office in January 2018.
He tried unsuccessfully to run for president in 2005 and failed in a vice-presidential bid in the country’s 2011 vote before finally being elected with over 60 per cent of the vote in 2017.
Famous African footballers Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o attended his inauguration ceremony.
Weah is sworn is as Liberia’s president alongside his wife Clar at his inauguration in 2018
Weah pictured with French president Emmanuel Macron on a state visit to Paris last month
Weah and Macron met with footballers Didier Drogba (front right) and Kylian Mbappe (front, second right) at the Elysee Palace in 2018
His first overseas state visit outside Africa was to meet French president Emmanuel Macron, with one meeting about sports development also attended by Drogba, Kylian Mbappe and FIFA president Gianni Infantino.
Weah hasn’t had the easiest of presidential terms, having to deal with the Covid pandemic and he recorded a song seeking to raise awareness of the issue to a reggae beat.
He will be eligible to stand for a second term in Liberia’s next election in October 2023.
George Weah, President of Liberia, watches his son play from the stands during Iran vs USA
The former striker is a legend in Brazilian football, having scored five times en route to their 1994 World Cup triumph in the United States and duly named the tournament’s best player.
In total, he scored 55 times in 70 games for the Selecao and netted an incredible 690 club goals in a career that took him from Vasco da Gama to PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona and later Valencia in Europe.
After finally hanging up his boots in 2009, Romario turned his hand to politics by standing in Brazil’s 2010 general election for the Socialist Party.
Romario pictured celebrating one of his goals during Brazil’s successful 1994 World Cup
That was unsuccessful but Romario raised his profile by agitating that the 2014 World Cup, staged in Brazil, was tainted by corruption and money laundering.
When he stood for the Senate again three months after the tournament, he was elected with the highest number of votes ever given to a candidate from Rio de Janeiro.
Since then, he’s switched political party allegiance twice and in this year’s elections he backed President Jair Bolsonaro but backed the wrong horse as the controversial Trump-like figure lost to Luiz Inacio ‘Lula’ da Silva.
Romario (left) entered politics after hanging up his boots and was elected to Brazil’s senate
A famous name in Turkish football who scored 51 times in 112 games and scored the fastest goal in World Cup history in 2002 after the team reached the semi-finals.
Sukur went into politics after retirement in 2008 and was elected as a member of parliament in 2011 representing the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
But he stepped down in 2013 following a rift between the government and the movement of the Islamic scholar Fethullah Gulen over plans to shut down exam prep schools.
Turkish legend Hakan Sukur waves a South Korean flag in appreciation in the 2002 World Cup
Sukur pictured in 2014 at an awards ceremony before he was banished from his homeland
Sukur continued as an independent MP but he crossed the ever more-dictatorial Erdogan in 2016. He was charged with ‘insulting content against the president and his son’ on Twitter, an offence which carried a potential four-year prison term.
Worse still, that same year he was charged with being a member of a terrorist organisation – the Gulen movement – and Sukur fled the country and went into exile in San Francisco.
He first tried to set up a cafe but gave up on this idea because ‘strange people kept coming into the bar’.
He told the Welt am Sonntag newspaper in 2020 that ‘now I drive for Uber and I sell books.’ He added that Erdogan’s government seized all his houses, businesses and bank accounts.
‘I have nothing left, Erdogan took everything: my right to liberty, freedom of expression and right to work,’ he said.
Sukur is pictured at the coffee shop he set up in San Francisco after fleeing from Turkey
In the eyes of many, Pele was the finest player ever to kick a ball around. His foray into politics, however, was far less glorious.
In 1995, he was made an Extraordinary Minister for Sports in his Brazilian homeland and was determined to weed out corruption within football and break down vested interests.
However, he served for just three years and by 2001 was embroiled in a scandal in which it was alleged his sports company stole £450,000 of charity money.
Brazilian football legend Pele pictured during a visit to Costa Rica when he was sports minister
Unicef paid the funds for a benefit match in 1995 but it was never returned after the fixture was cancelled. Pele accused a business partner of mismanaging his company and stealing the money.
It led the Brazilian people to reassess his time as sports minister, wondering if rather than being an altruistic act, he simply did the job to further the interests of his own businesses.
Unicef moved to clear Pele of any wrongdoing and he has long been an ambassador for the organisation – but he never re-entered politics.
Pele’s time in office was a turbulent one amid allegations of corruption over a charity match
Gianni Rivera was a member of the Italian national and European parliaments
Rivera was dubbed ‘Golden Boy’ during a fine playing career that saw him win two European Cups with AC Milan, for whom he made 658 appearances, and play in four World Cups for Italy.
The playmaker also helped his country win the European Championship in 1968 and many regard him as the best player Italy has ever produced.
His later life was devoted to politics, but only after he spent seven years as Milan’s vice-president prior to Silvio Berlusconi’s takeover.
Representing the Christian Democracy party he was elected into the Italian Parliament in 1987 and subsequently re-elected three times by the constituency of Milan.
He served as the under-secretary for defence and also served as a Member of the European Parliament between 2005 and 2009.
Another Milan legend, Ukrainian forward Shevchenko scored 173 goals in 296 matches for the Rossoneri and helped them win the Champions League in 2003.
He also captained Ukraine in their first-ever World Cup appearance in 2006 and played in Euro 2012, which they co-hosted with Poland.
Shevchenko entered the world of politics after his retirement in 2012, joining the Ukraine – Forward! Party ahead of parliamentary elections.
Andriy Shevchenko celebrates a goal for Ukraine during Euro 2012 – he unsuccessfully tried to make the leap into politics later that year
Despite his enormous profile in the country, the party won just 1.58 per cent of votes nationally and failed to win any parliamentary representation.
A month later, Shevchenko turned down the role of Ukraine’s national team manager but he would eventually take the job in 2016, serving for five years.
He is now the vice-president of the National Olympic Committee of Ukraine.
Despite being a national hero, the party Shevchenko represented failed miserably at the polls
Best known for winning the Golden Boot after scoring seven goals for Poland at the 1974 World Cup, Lato certainly had a high profile in his home country.
In 2001, representing the Democratic Left Alliance, Lato was elected a senator for the Rzeszow region.
During his time in office, he was a member of the Committee on Emigration and Pole Abroad plus the Committee on Science, Education and Sport.
However, Lato was unsuccessful in a 2004 bid to become a MEP and then he fell short in the 2005 and 2007 Polish elections, leading to him becoming the Polish FA president in October 2008.
One ruthless act was his sacking of national team coach Leo Beenhakker after a 3-0 defeat by Slovenia effectively ended Poland’s chances of qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.
‘I don’t want to make a rash decision but this cannot be changed. That was Leo’s last game as coach,’ Lato said on live television.
Poland great Grzegorz Lato, who won the Golden Boot at the 1974 World Cup, was a senator
Roman Pavlyuchenko because a deputy for Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party not long after signing for Tottenham
In 2008, Tottenham spent £13.7million to sign Russian striker Pavlyuchenko from Spartak Moscow. To the surprise of almost everyone, the 26-year-old simultaneously entered politics.
A month after arriving in London, Pavlyuchenko was elected a deputy for Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party in his home town of Stavropol.
With the party claiming 63 per cent of the vote, he secured a seat on the regional council. Details on how Pavlyuchenko would serve his constituents in southern Russia and play football in England were thin on the ground.
One Russian football commentator at the time suggested ‘the international financial crisis affected his wages’, meaning a second job was necessary.
Pavlyuchenko pictured with Russian president Vladimir Putin and other athletes in 2012
The stand-out player of his generation for the Soviet Union and the powerful Dynamo Kyiv team, striker Blokhin boasted an enviable goalscoring record throughout his career.
He was also the coach that guided Ukraine to that first World Cup in 2006, though he couldn’t steer them out of the group stage in 2012.
Before all that, Blokhin turned his hand to politics, winning a seat in the Ukrainian parliament with the Hromada party in 1998 despite the fact he was still a member of the Communist Party.
He won re-election to the Verkhovna Rada, the Ukrainian parliament, in 2002 before switching to the United Social Democratic Party.
Oleg Blokhin was a politician before he coached Ukraine at their first-ever World Cup finals