Kaladze and Tommasi as mayors and other footballers turned politicians
George Vea is president of Liberia
Growing up in the slums of Monrovia, the boy kicked the ball selflessly in the dangerous streets and could never have imagined the heights he would one day reach. Vea’s career – an example for all Africans, and it is not just about success in football, although they are a separate conversation. The first European club George became “Monaco” with which he won the French Cup, then there was a championship with PSG, two Scudetto with AC Milan and the English Cup in the “Chelsea”. Vea reached the top of the footballing world in 1995, when he won the Ballon d’Or.
After his football career, Vea turned to humanitarian and political activities, first ran for the Liberian presidency in 2005 and even won the first round of elections, but surrendered in the second round. George Vea became the first face of his country 12 years later, the 25th President of Liberia taking office in January 2018. So for four and a half years now, the former footballer has ruled a country of 5 million people.
Romário is Brazil’s senator from the state of Rio de Janeiro
The energetic ‘Shorty’ played for PSV and Barcelona, won the World Cup in 1994 and claims to have scored more than 1,000 goals in his career. His popularity through football has contributed to his political fortunes, with Romario having held elective office in his country since 2010. He was first a member of the lower house of Brazil’s National Congress and in 2014 moved to the Brazilian Federal Senate (the upper house of congress), winning the most votes ever for a candidate from the state of Rio de Janeiro. Romário changes parties like football clubs; four years ago he ran for governor of the state of Rio de Janeiro but lost that election.
Kakhaber Kaladze – mayor of Tbilisi
On the field he was Kakha Kaladze, the pinnacle of his football career at AC Milan, for which he spent ten seasons and under three hundred games. An accessory to big victories under Carlo Ancelotti, the Georgian defender won the Champions League twice. In 2010, Kakha said goodbye to AC Milan and headed to Genoa for the rest of his career, before ending an Italian adventure which saw him instantly transformed into a Georgian politician whose career has taken off at a breathtaking pace.
In 2012 Kakhaber Karlovic became a member of the Georgian parliament and in the same year he received the post of Minister of Energy. Five years later, Kaladze ran for mayor of Tbilisi and won a landslide victory with more than 50% of the vote. In 2021, Kaladze was re-elected and remains the mayor of the Georgian capital. Even when he was a Milan player Kakha half-jokingly and half-seriously said he was going to be the president of Georgia. Now it seems quite realistic, after all the popular politician is only 44 years old and he has been elected for the second term by citizens of Tbilisi, where nearly a third of the Georgian population lives.
Damiano Tommasi is the newly elected mayor of Verona
The city of Romeo and Juliet will now be run by a footballer. Damiano Tommasi started his football career in Verona, but is best known thanks to his performances for Roma, with which he won the Italian championship in 2000/01 season. I personally recall the match in which Tommasi scored his only Champions League goal. Fabio Capello’s stellar AS Roma confidently took on Barcelona, with substitute Gabriel Batistuta’s goal and Damiano’s 3-0 second-half substitution against the Catalans.
Tommasi has been active in charity work throughout his football career, and soon after he sent the boots on the proverbial nail, Tommasi became president of the Italian Professional Footballers’ Association and held that position for almost 10 years. It turns out he was preparing for a more serious political career: in last weekend’s Verona mayoral elections, independent candidate Tommasi won 54.4% of the vote. He is now responsible for the well-being of the city of 250,000 inhabitants.
José Luis Chilavert is Paraguay’s presidential candidate
One of the brightest South American goalkeepers in history, Chilavert is remembered not only for making saves at the ribbon, but also for scoring from penalties and free kicks. He scored a career-high 70 goals, including 8 for Paraguay. Quite good for a guy with gloves, who grew up in absolute poverty and didn’t know what shoes were until he was seven. Chilavert has been voted South American Footballer of the Year and has played in Europe for Spanish side Zaragoza and French side Strasbourg. Back in late 2020, José Luís announced that he was going to run for president of Paraguay in the 2023 elections. A fortnight ago, Chilavert officially put forward his candidacy:
Feeling responsible for building a better Paraguay, I have decided to formally run for president so that our people can once again be proud of their country.