On the Channel 4 website, Simon Kuper is putting together his “Political Football first XI”. It makes for interesting reading so far, with eight players picked and they each get a dedicated article (follow the links below).
- Liberia’s George Weah: “Weah was that rare Liberian, a millionaire who made his money honestly and who sent money to the country instead of taking it out.”
- Austrian Matthias Sindelar: “Matthias Sindelar’s death at 35, months after the Nazi takeover of Austria, remains a mystery to this day. His fate has become an allegory for twentieth-century Austria.”
- Croatia’s Zvonomir Boban: “The Croatian nationalist may be the only footballer ever credited with kicking off a civil war. He was in at the beginning of the division of Yugoslavia in 1990.”
- Northern Ireland’s Neil Lennon: “Just before Neil Lennon could captain Northern Ireland for the first time, somebody phoned the BBC and threatened to kill him. The midfielder, who had had death threats before, withdrew from the match. He never played for his country again. It was one of the last episodes in the Troubles, the Protestant-Catholic conflict that tore apart Northern Ireland for over 30 years.”
- Britain’s Walter Tull: “Tull was not merely the first British-born black army officer. He also marked football, as Britain’s – and possibly the world’s – first black professional outfield player.”
- The captain, Argentina’s Diego Maradona: “Maradona captains our political footballers’ eleven, because few other great athletes are so political. Think, by contrast, of the human advertising billboards Pele or Michael Jordan.”
- Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer and Paul Breitner: “As a left-back, Breitner fit perfectly into the brilliant Bayern team. As a leftie, he could not have chosen a worse club. The dominant figure at Bayern was the libero Franz Beckenbauer. Like Breitner, Beckenbauer thought about life beyond football, but came to the opposite conclusions. When Breitner saw Germans in power, he wanted to rebel. Beckenbauer wanted to join them.”
What do you think of the selections? Who else would you pick?
[Thanks to PPV for the tip.]