Rarely do professional footballers make public statements that zigzag anywhere near political engagement - so the appearance of West Ham's Matt Jarvis on the cover of Britain's best-selling gay magazine, Attitude, and his attempt to address homophobia, one of the beautiful game's last remaining stigmas (in 21 years of the Premier League not one footballer has come out), is to be welcomed. Here we select five other pros who have used their profile to political effect.
In 2010, Lilian Thuram took issue with President Sarkozy's description of the youth in France's poorer neighbourhood as "scum": "Using words like these is irresponsible in the current climate. People used to call me scum when I was a kid on the estate, but I wasn’t scum. I just wanted to work. The situation makes me sick. Nobody is asking the right questions. Nobody is trying to look at the real problems.”
Ivorian star Didier Drogba has been credited with playing a crucial role in ending the Ivory Coast's civil war in 2006, making an empassioned plea live on television.
Norwich City fans might be surprised to learn than when manager Chris Hughton played for Spurs (1977-90) he wrote a column for the paper of the Workers' Revolutionary Party. Sadly, no articles are available online, and Hughton has said his take was more football-based than political: "I was aware of what the paper was all about and where it stood on issues, but the bigger interest for me was as a young man it was to have my own column. I don’t think many people read it though.”
A more effective contributor to the Socialist cause, perhaps, was legendary Nottingham Forest manager Brian Clough, who stood on picket lines and donated regularly to trade unions. He twice rejected the Labour Party's advances to stand as their candidate in a general election.
Then there's Paulo di Canio who, when playing for Lazio, celebrated a goal with a fascist salute. He defended his actions by saying: "I am a fascist, not a racist. I give the straight-arm salute because it is a salute from a 'camerata' (comrade) to his 'camerati'… "
- More about:
- Brian Clough
- Chris Hughton
- Didier Drogba
- Nicolas Sarkozy
- Norwich City
- Nottingham Forest
- Ss Lazio
- Trade Unions