10 Footballers who Went into Politics - and What Happened Next


  • A host of footballing greats have turned their hand to politics following retirement.

  • Former Ballon d'Or winner George Weah became president of his homeland, Liberia.

  • France World Cup winner Lilian Thuram became an activist while Invincible Sol Campbell attempted to run for office as London Mayor.

If you were to look at the backlash of Gary Neville and Gary Lineker, and their outspoken nature in the modern political environment, you'd likely see a plethora of comments suggesting that they 'stick to football'. However, while many players are wrapped up in the footballing world after retirement, there are quite a few that, like Neville and Lineker, have used their platform to address bigger issues. There are plenty, in fact, that easily surpass those two examples.

Former Invincibles and World Cup winners turned wannabe politicians with bizarre sentiments, to serious minds, and an actual president of an African country, read on as GIVEMESPORT looks back at 10 football players who have got involved with politics over the years.

10 Cuauhtemoc Blanco

Political Career Span: 2015-Present


One of Mexico's greatest-ever footballers, Cuauhtemoc Blanco won 119 caps for El Tri between 1995 and 2014 and scored 38 goals. The forward, who could also play as an attacking midfielder, was a club legend for Club America in his home country and in a domestic career that saw him feature for a number of other clubs like Chicago Fire and briefly Real Vallodolid, to name just two, he made 601 appearances and scored 220 goals.

While his career came to an end, Blanco registered as a Social Democratic Party candidate in January 2015, and was elected as municipal president of Cuernavaca. Later, he joined the Social Encounter Party and became state Governor of Morelos in 2018. As of the time of writing, it is a position he still holds to this day.

[th][b]Cuauhtemoc Blanco[/b][/th]
Position Forward, Attacking Midfielder
National Team Mexico
Notable Clubs Club America, Real Vallodolid, Chicago Fire
Role in Politics Governor of Morelos, Mexico

9 Sol Campbell

Political Career Span: 2015-2016


As if turning out for both Spurs and Arsenal wasn't divisive enough, Sol Campbell also had a very brief dabble in British politics. The legendary England defender of 73 caps bizarrely revealed in 2014 that he was considering running for office with the Conservatives.

It began after his retirement, when he became increasingly vocal, criticising Ed Miliband's proposals for a mansion tax on properties worth over £2 million, calling it "madness". Convinced his involvement would help secure the 'black vote' for the Tories, in 2015, he put himself forward in the race for the Conservative nomination for Mayor of London. However, he failed to make the shortlist. He also took part in a Vote Leave rally ahead of the Brexit ballot in 2016.

While mansion-loving man of the people, Campbell, has said some questionable things, it must be noted that he makes up for it with his extensive charity work. Before all this kicked off, in 2009, he launched his charity "Kids go live" - allowing inner city children to see a variety of live sporting events such as Wimbledon, the Olympic Games and rugby internationals.

[th][b][b]Sol Campbell[/b][/b][/th]
Position Centre-back
National Team England
Notable Clubs Tottenham Hotspur, Arsenal, Portsmouth, Newcastle United
Role in Politics Conservative Party candidate London Mayoral Election 2016

8 Zico

Political Career Span: 1990-2015


One of the greatest players in Brazil's history, free-kick maestro Zico was part of the memorable 1982 World Cup team, and the former playmaker gained legendary status at Flamengo, as well as cult appreciation for stints in Italy and Japan. What could be deemed even more cult, however, is his stint in politics sandwiched between his second Flamengo stint and that time in Asia.

Zico became Brazil's sports minister in 1990. After introducing a number of reforms to improve football in the country, he became frustrated when a parliamentary vote was persistently delayed. He left his post just a year later and instead found more joy in administrative roles at his former clubs. He was Kashima Antlers' director, before moving back to Flamengo for the same role. However, he resigned after five months due to disagreements with the board.

June 2015 saw Zico officially announce he would run for the FIFA presidency role. He was unsuccessful though, and in August 2018, returned to the Antlers board where he currently remains.

Position Attacking Midfielder
National Team Brazil
Notable Clubs Flamengo, Udinese, Kashima Antlers
Role in Politics Brazil Sports Minister, FIFA Presidency candidate

7 Lilian Thuram

Political Career Span: 2005-Present

Lilian Thuram celebrates with France

Lilian Thuram racked up 142 caps for France between 1994 and 2008 and was a key member of the teams which won the 1998 World Cup and the European Championship two years later. In addition to his fine international pedigree, the Guadaloupe-born Frenchman played out an impressive club career with Monaco, Parma, Juventus and Barcelona.

During the French riots in 2005, Thuram lashed out at future president Nicolas Sarkozy after the minister spoke of the "scum" living in low-income housing. Intriguingly, the defender was later offered a job as Diversity Minister by Sarkozy, yet turned it down. Since then, he has persistently continued to speak about racism and took part in a march in favour of same-sex marriage in 2013.

[th][b][b][b][b]Lilian Thuram[/b][/b][/b][/b][/th]
Position Centre-back, right-back
National Team France
Notable Clubs Monaco, Parma, Juventus, Barcelona
Role in Politics Activism


6 Hakan Sukur

Political Career Span: 2011-Present
Hakan Sukur in action for Turkey

One of Turkey's greatest-ever players, forward Hakan Sukur netted 51 goals in 112 appearances for his national team and is Galatasaray's all-time top scorer with 288 goals. 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 in December 2013, but continued as an independent MP. Now, despite legendary status, in 2016, Sukur learned of the regime's bitter censorship the hard way, as he was forced into exile after he was accused of insulting president Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Twitter. With this alleged insult, he was also to be deemed part of the Gulen movement, which is designated as a terrorist organisation in Turkey.

Such was the fall from grace in his homeland, an arrest warrant still stands for the now-USA resident. Additionally, July 2017 saw a decree issued stating that all medals awarded to the former striker were to be revoked.

[th][b][b][b][b]Hakan Sukur[/b][/b][/b][/b][/th]
Position Striker
National Team Turkey
Notable Clubs Bursaspor, Galatasaray, Inter Milan
Role in Politics Politician, Former Member of Parliament, Activist

5 Socrates

Political Career Span: 1978-2011

Socrates in action for Brazil

While his elegant midfield exploits for Brazil and a host of clubs in his homeland earned Socrates a great following as a player, his additional medical degree and political awareness gained him the nickname "Doctor Socrates".

Easily often recognizable for his beard and headband, Socrates became the symbol of cool for a whole generation of football supporters but also took that beyond aesthetics. During his time at Corinthians, Socrates co-founded the Corinthians Democracy movement, in opposition to the then-ruling Brazilian military government. He and his teammates protested against the regime's treatment of footballers, and showed support to the wider movement by wearing shirts with "Democracia" written on them during games.

Moreover, he spoke out in support of Diretas Ja (Free Elections Now), a popular movement that called for direct presidential elections and even hinged a move to Italy on it if things didn't change. Socrates was an excellent example of a star using his following to great effect.

Position Midfielder
National Team Brazil
Notable Clubs Botafogo, Corinthians, Fiorentina, Flamengo, Santos
Role in Politics Activist, Humanitarian

4 Pele

Political Career Span: 1994-2022

Pele was paid $120,000 to tie his laces at the 1970 World Cup

Ultimately regarded by many as the greatest footballer of all time, Pele is the only player in history to win three World Cups. While his eternal glory was prevalent in football, of course, the former Santos man didn't stop there, and used his influence to impact on a wider scale.

Heavily involved in politics and social issues after his retirement, the legendary forward worked as a UNESCO goodwill ambassador and a UN ambassador for ecology and the environment. Later, he was Brazil's Extraordinary Minister for Sport and a piece of legislation against corruption in Brazilian sport - the "Pele law" - was even named after him. Furthermore, Pele notably appeared at the 2006 World Economic Forum in Davos, and spoke on the subject titled, "Can a Ball Change the World: The Role of Sports in Development".

His ambassadorial work found him further acclaim in 2012, as he was awarded an honorary degree from the University of Edinburgh for "significant contribution to humanitarian and environmental causes, as well as his sporting achievements".

Position Striker
National Team Brazil
Notable Clubs Santos, New York Cosmos
Role in Politics Activist, Ambassador, Humanitarian

3 Romario

Political Career Span: 2010-Present

Romario celebrating a goal for Brazil

Considered comfortably among Brazil's great strikers, as well as being a World Cup winner in 1994, Romario scored 55 goals in 70 appearances for his national team and played for the likes of Barcelona, PSV Eindhoven, Flamengo and Vasco de Gama in a long, fruitful career.

After retirement, he went into politics in 2010, and following his election to the Chamber of Deputies, he lobbied against corruption in football and Brazil's hosting of the 2014 World Cup. Romario was then elected senator in 2014. In 2017, he switched parties to the centrist Podemos, and in 2021, he joined the Liberal Party. That same year, he endorsed then-Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and was critical of his rival, and current president, Lula.

Position Striker
National Team Brazil
Notable Clubs Vaco da Gama, PSV Eindhoven, Barcelona, Flamengo, Fluminense
Role in Politics Politician, Member of the Chamber of Deputies, Former Second Vice President of the Federal Senate

Ronaldo Nazario Neymar Ronaldinho Brazil

2 Kakha Kaladze

Political Career Span: 2012-Present


Kakha Kaladze won 83 caps for his country and spent almost nine-and-a-half years at AC Milan between 2001 and 2010.

After retiring from football in 2012, he joined the Georgian Dream-Democratic Georgia party and became a member of parliament in October. Later, he was appointed Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Energy. That move was criticised due to his business interests in the sector. However, he continued to occupy both of these positions under the succeeding cabinet of Giorgi Kvirikashvili until July 2017.

He then resigned to run for the Mayor of Tbilisi as a Georgian Dream candidate in the October 2017 election, which he won with 51.13%. In 2021, he was reelected as the Mayor of Tbilisi, gaining 55.61% of the vote in the second round of the election. He still holds the position to this day.

[th][b][b][b][b][b][b][b][b]Kakha Kaladze[/b][/b][/b][/b][/b][/b][/b][/b][/th]
Position Left-back, centre-back
National Team Georgia
Notable Clubs Dinamo Tbilisi, Dynamo Kyiv, AC Milan, Genoa
Role in Politics Politician, Former Deputy Prime Minister, Former Minister of Energy, Mayor of Tbilisi

1 George Weah

Political Career Span: 2005-Present

George Weah lifts the Ballon d'Or

Among the greatest African footballers of all time, as well as being Liberia's all-time best, George Weah won the Ballon d'Or in 1995 and was African Footballer of the Year in 1989 and 1995. He plied his goal-getting trade with AC Milan and Paris Saint-Germain among others in his prolific 18-year professional football career, which ended in 2003.

After his retirement, Weah announced his intentions to be Liberia president in 2005. He formed the Congress for Democratic Change and ran unsuccessfully for president in the 2005 election, losing to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the second round of voting. In the 2011 election, he ran unsuccessfully for vice presidency.

Weah was subsequently elected to the Senate of Liberia for Montserrado County in the 2014 election, before being elected President of Liberia in the 2017, defeating the incumbent vice president Joseph Boakai. He was sworn in on 22 January 2018 and served for five years until he was defeated in a rematch with Boakai in the 2023 election. Weah is the first African former professional footballer to become a head of state.

[th][b][b][b][b][b][b][b][b][b]George Weah[/b][/b][/b][/b][/b][/b][/b][/b][/b][/th]
Position Striker
National Team Liberia
Notable Clubs AS Monaco, Paris Saint-Germain, AC Milan, Manchester City, Marseille
Role in Politics Politician, Senator, Former President of Liberia


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