I had been thinking of compiling a team of past and present footballers who happened to have interesting or even extreme politics. Of course, problems arose. Would a fascist winger track back to help out a commie fullback? Would that fullback overlap for the winger? The answer is: probably. Nevertheless I decided to make two teams – one with vaguely right-wing sensibilities, from Thatcherites to full-blown Nazis; and the other made up of old-school socialists, squatters and even a Situationist prankster (kind of).
First up, wearing their blue and brown kit, we have:
With 113 caps and a World Cup winners medals to his name there is no doubt that Buffon is one of the finest goalkeepers of all time. However controversy has followed Buffon since his early days at Parma, where he chose the squad number 88. “H” is the eighth letter of the alphabet and the number 88 is used by neo-Nazi groups worldwide to signify “HH”, or Heil Hitler. Despite this being common knowledge (particularly in Northern Italy), Buffon pleaded ignorance when this began to cause a stir. He did not offer any explanation as to why he did choose the number and Parma eventually persuaded him to change to 77. Another shirt added fuel to the controversy years later. This time a t-shirt that he regularly wore to training emblazoned with the Italian fascist motto: “credere, obbedire, combattere” (believe, obey, fight). Buffon is not known for his love of literature and only took one book to the 2002 World Cup – a lengthy tome on the Third Reich.
A tough, journeyman at the back. Brown briefly graced the premier league in Hull City’s colours but played most of his football in the championship. It was while playing for Leicester City that Brown revealed that he was a proud supporter of the BNP. Leicester is a multi-cultural city and their football team is no different. It was in the dressing room in May 2010 that some players were discussing the recent national elections that Brown made his political allegiances known. He is believed to have launched into a tirade re-hashing some of the BNPs favourite lines to his shocked team-mates. Winger Lloyd Dyer and coach Chris Powell objected, but Brown refused to back down and the row quickly escalated. Other players narrowly prevented any blows from being thrown. Brown was swiftly suspended and never played for the Foxes again – he left the club “by mutual consent” that summer.
Possibly one of the best free-takers of all time, Mihajlovic was an uncompromising defender for a clutch of Serie A clubs. His politics were similarly uncompromising and he played a central role in the infamous 1991 Yugoslav Cup final. Playing for the Serbian side Red Star Belgrade against their Croat rivals Hajduk Split, Mihajlovic targeted his (not entirely innocent) opposite number, Stimac. The duel soon took centre stage as tackles flew in and the two players tried to injure one another. Mihajlovic finally did manage to seriously injure a Split player and was sent off. Players and staff from both sides were soon squaring off all over the pitch. All this against the background of the exploding conflict in the region. Mihajlovic has always been an ardent Serbian nationalist and recently contributed to an article praising the notorious Red Star hooligan and war criminal, Arkan (he was the leader of the Serb Volunteer Guard).
Jamie Carragher is a one-club man. The curtain will soon fall on his career and he will be feted as a dying breed. The local lad done good was loyal to the end. One of the reasons he is a dying breed is because the competition for places at clubs like Liverpool is intense these days. This can, in part, be attributed to players from overseas making Anfield their home. This is something that Jamie is not so pleased about. Here’s a quote from his auto-boiography:
“There’s definitely too many foreigners in the game. What’s the point of spending all this money on the academies if we’re not pushing local kids through? Liverpool FC is our club. It’s a big part of our city and you’ve got to give young Scousers with aspirations the chance to succeed.”
I wonder if this idea stretches beyond the football pitch? What’s that Jamie? Oh it does, does it? “It’s not just football. I’ve got two brothers who find it hard to work in Liverpool in this Capital of Culture year. One of the reasons is we’ve made it too easy for foreigners to come here and take the jobs.”
Linking Midfield and attack will be master-passer, Boban, a very classy player and one whose place in the history books is assured thanks to one timely kick. Of course, it was not a kick to the ball for which Boban is most famous, but a kick to a policeman. In May 1990 as Yugoslavia was just beginning to crumble, Boban lined out for Dynamo Zagreb in a crucial game against Red Star Belgrade (Serbian – see the Mihajlovic entry). The struggle on the pitch soon moved to the stands as scuffles began to erupt between Croat and Serbian Ultras. A Dynamo fan slipped and was set upon by a policeman. Boban spotted it and ran over, delivering a flying kick to the cop. It was a small victory on a day when Red Star fans came out on top thanks to the complicity of the predominantly Serbian police force. Boban’s kick became a rallying cry for his beloved Croatia, the, at that time, embryonic nation about which he had this to say:
“Croatia is the reason I live. I love my country as I love myself. I would die for Croatia.”
Boban did not have to witness the killing and dying that continued long after the match as he moved to AC Milan.
Another incisive passer and playmaker in midfield. Aquilani is yet to fulfill his potential and seems to have difficulty cementing his place in any of the big sides that he has played for. Not much is known about Alberto’s home decor but he has confirmed that he has a marble statue of Mussolini in his home. I’m not sure if he spends much time with Jamie Carragher but their politics align quite well. Here’s what Alberto told La Gazzeta dello Sport:
“There are too many foreigners in the country and most of the violence and trouble you see is caused by them.”
In case you’re wondering he was referring to Italy not Liverpool.
With a lack of width up until here, an exciting, capable player is needed for the wing. There was little that Stoichkov could not do with the ball at his feet. He was fast, skillful, unpredictable and aggressive. Stoichkov was always confident of his own abilities and it came as no surprise that he was not worried about facing Milan’s excellent Marcel Desailly, but was it really necessary to point out that he “always excel(s) against blacks”?
Paolo Di Canio
There’s not really much to say about Di Canio. One of the finest players I have been lucky enough to see in the flesh. Each time he collected the ball a wave of excitement moved through the stands. Funnily enough he claimed to be waving to his family in the stands at the Stadio D’Ollimpico when he performs this particular salute.
Perhaps people will be surprised to see an African winner of numerous humanitarian awards on this team. The outrageously skillful Liberian moved into politics at the end of his playing days and who can blame him for wanting to change the drastic situation of his native land. Weah cited, his former chairman, Silvio Berlusconi as a major influence in this decision and set out to run Liberia as Berlusconi ran Italy. First however, he had to get elected. Perhaps it was pragmatism or perhaps poor advice but he chose to surround himself with former warlords and associates of previous dictatorial regimes. When asked about the past of some of his allies, Weah replied that they had done nothing wrong. His vision was never realised as he lost the elections after qualifying for the second round.
Playing just behind the front two Keegan, would have the freedom to move about the pitch and get on the ball as much as possible. There’s no big team that would not love to have him in their side. A much more amicable bloke than many of his teammates, he is here because of a kiss. A true family man Keegan has been happily married since his early days as a pro but that didn’t stop him planting a kiss on Maggie Thatcher’s cheek as she prepared for a general election. It’s no real surprise that footballs first millionaire was quick to endorse Maggie’s low taxes for the rich.
With all those creative players on the pitch what this team needed was a finisher and Jimmy Greaves was born to score goals. Greavesie is not a fan of current Prime Minister David Cameron. He claims that Britain needs “a new Thatcher…to sort out…growing trade union power”. Truly surreal.
Luiz Felipe Scolari
Big Phil openly voices his disdain for gays and his admiration for General Pinochet:
“[He] tortured a lot but there is no illiteracy in Chile”
Editors Note: The Left Wingers will get posted by next weekend, just in time for the knockout stage of Euro 2012.