Politically Charged Footballers

By Ed Wade.

There was an air of shock and disbelief in Turkey on Tuesday night, when Lokomtiv Moscow’s Dmitri Tarasov took off his shirt to reveal a pro Vladimir Putin shirt following their Europa League defeat to Fenerbahçe. Along with the picture of Putin wearing a Navy hat, were the Russian words ‘the most polite president.’

The match was the first that paired a Russian and Turkish team after a Russian war plane was shot down for violating Turkish airspace over Syria. It was a highly charged game which saw three Fenerbahçe fans arrested before kick-off.

It will go down as one of the most politically controversial moves in football, but it is not the first time it has happened. So who are the other football stars to have involved the beautiful game within political matters.

  1. Paolo Di Canio

The former West Ham player and Sunderland manager was a talisman on the pitch, and a full on headline in the making on the sidelines.

He’s made the headlines for the right reasons numerous times in the past, and everyone will remember ‘that volley’ against Wimbledon.

However, the Italian was full of controversy and was famously a big fan of former Italian Fascist Prime Minister, Benito Mussolini. He mentioned in his autobiography that he is ‘fascinated’ with the controversial political figure.

He made several fascist salutes whilst playing for Lazio in 2005 and was suspended and fined after a game against AS Roma. As a result of his right-wing views, the Italian was almost sacked from Sunderland before he had even managed a game.

  1. Josip Simunic

The former Croatian captain famously lead fascist chants after a 2-0 win over Iceland in a World Cup qualifying match in 2013.

The chants were in support of the former pro-Nazi Ustase regime during World War II and were met with the response of ‘ready’ by supporters.

After the match, Simunic said: “I’m not afraid. I’m supporting my Croatia, my homeland. If someone has something against it, that’s their problem.”

The then Dinamo Zagreb player was banned for 10 matches and missed the World cup in 2014.

  1. Nicolas Anelka

The Frenchman is known for being an European football journeyman of sorts, playing for 10 separate clubs across the continent.

The striker caused a stir when celebrating with a quenelle salute after scoring in a match for West Brom in 2014.

He denied all accusations of being a fascist and said it was in support of French comedian Dieudonne M’bala who used it as an expression of hatred towards Jews.

Anelka was banned for five games and fined £80,000 despite saying after the game that it was ‘misunderstood.

  1. Diego Maradona

The magical Argentine is known for his incredible exploits on the field, not to mention his two goals against England in the world cup. He has never been far from controversy after being tested positive for drug use.

A well-known left wing supporter, he voiced his thoughts on America when appearing on former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez TV programme.

He said: “I hate everything that comes from the United States. I hate it with all my strength.”

He was also against George Bush’s visit to Argentina, it seems: “I think Bush is a murderer. I’m going to head the march against him stepping foot on Argentine soil.”

  1. Christian Abbiati

The only active professional player on the list, Christian Abbiati has been used as a cup goalkeeper trying to help Milan claim the TIM cup of late.

The AC goalkeeper may not be as high profile or have been quite so loud in voicing his opinions, but the Italian goalkeeper has not been quiet about it either.

He said: “I am not ashamed to proclaim my political beliefs. I share ideals of fascism, such as the fatherland and the values of the Catholic religion.”

 

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