Alas, Eric Cantona’s bid for the French presidency, which most of the media followed up on today, turned out to be without “verité” - a savvy stunt to get people talking about the issue of homelessness.
But the cult star’s short-lived comeback did get us thinking about other times when the football and political worlds have collided.
• The first that sprung to mind was George Weah’s serious (but unsuccessful) shot at the Liberian presidency in 2005. Despite his lack of a formal education, the former AC Milan star and FIFA World Player of the Year had enough popularity in his tiny homeland to win over a sizeable chunk of the electorate. They call Weah ‘The King’ in tiny Liberia, and he remains actively involved in politics.
• Roman Pavulychenko of Tottenham is closely involved with Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party. His role was (or maybe still is) “developing resources for exercise and sport” in Stavropol.
• Cristiano Lucarelli of Parma (currently on loan at Napoli) is a big Communist - he shows it in goal celebrations and has worn Che Guevara t-shirts under his strip, which saw him blackballed from the Italian national side for nearly ten years.
• Lithuanian coach Algimantas Liubinskas stopped playing to campaign as an MP for the right wing Order and Justice Party in Lithuania.
• Diego Maradona is good chums with Fidel Castro and has the Cuban’s face tattooed on his left leg.
• Paolo di Canio is a self-confessed Fascist.
• Brian Clough used to stand on picket lines during the miners’ strikes, and was a staunch Socialist. The Labour Party actually sounded Cloughie out twice about standing as a Parliamentary candidate in General Elections, but he refused in order to concentrate on football management. He did, however, sign the founding charter of the Anti Nazi League.
• Lillian Thuram is a staunch supporter of the rights of ethnic groups, using his profile to tackle racism and highlight the plight of his country’s ignored minorities. During French riots of 2005, Thuram challenged Nicolas Sarkozy’s description of the troublemakers as “scum”, saying that the right-wing politician had never lived on an estate. A year later, he laid on buses to take 70 homeless immigrants expelled from a squat in Paris to France’s game with Italy as a stand against President Chirac’s immigration policies.
• Javier Zanetti is a FIFA ambassador to the SOS Children’s Villages project in Argentina and supports Mexico’s Zapatista rebels.
Andrew Smith’s Stramash...
HEARTS’ SALARIES GOING APE
We have obtained Vladimir Romanov’s next diatribe which, shockingly, might be the first such address from the Tynecastle club’s owner that may not be entirely nonsensical. “In the jungle, there are many bananas, and these fruits can be picked free from the trees,” it reads. “The monkeys do this and the monkeys can be trained. We will train the monkeys to pick bananas. We will store these bananas in crates and ship them to the land of the Mowglis. Then we can pay the Hearts players in bananas instead of pounds sterling because folks, that’s showbiz!”
A REF FEELING THE PRESSURE
Sometime Sky analyst and former referee Dermot Gallagher was asked for his thoughts on the fact that only a yellow card was shown to Chelsea midfielder Frank Lampard for a brutal challenge in his side’s encounter with Wolves this week. “It wasn’t a red card – we have to be careful not to set the barometer too low,” said the whistler... in the wind.
RANGERS ON THE ROPES
Are Rangers involved in some sort of football-cum-wrestling bout with the current season? Lee mcCulloch’s flailing arm, which earned him a two-match ban last week means that, when it comes to retrospective punishments dished out by the disciplinary panel this term, they now have two elbows and a fall. Expect a submission sometime soon.