When footballers took a political stance

With elections upcoming in France, Marcus Thuram and Kylian Mbappe, in a very unusual move, took a political stance, which active footballers usually avoid doing. Let's take a look at others who did the same during their careers.
Last Updated : 19 June 2024, 17:04 IST

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With the French snap elections coming-up soon, the French national team footballers, like many celebrities during an election in their countries, asked the people to come out and vote.

However, among these calls was a scene that is rarely seen. French forward Marcus Thuram and later his captain and global star Kylian Mbappe, called upon the French people to vote so "that the National Rally (party) does not succeed."

Footballers, who are in the prime of their careers, rarely take a political stance, if ever. They do show support for movements like 'Black Lives Matter', or the LGBTQ+ movement, but prefer not to risk their careers by openly supporting a political ideology, especially when they still have an active career.

So it was quite a surprise to see the two of them openly speaking against one side.

But this is not the first instance of active footballers expressing their political leanings. Here are a few footballers who publicly showcased their political ideologies while they were still playing the Beautiful Game.

Marcus Thuram and Kylian Mbappe against RN

Kylian Mbappe during a press conference.

Kylian Mbappe during a press conference.

Credit: X/@RealBrasil_BR

Speaking to the media two days before their match against Austria at the Euro 2024, Marcus Thuram had been iterating what his fellow team-mates had said days prior, urging the people, especially the youth, to go out and vote even if France had games on those days. But then he went further, expressing his views on the situation.

"As Ousmane (Dembele) said, we must tell everyone to go and vote. We all need to fight daily so that this doesn’t happen and that the National Rally (party) does not succeed,” Thuram told the media, as reported by Telegraph India.

National Rally, or RN, is a French nationalist and right-wing populist party led by Marine Le Pen.

What was even more surprising was that Kylian Mbappe, the French team captain and a international icon, backed his team-mate's stance.

"I share his opinion....Kylian Mbappe is against extreme views and against ideas that divide people. I want to be proud to represent France, I don't want to represent a country that doesn't correspond to my values, or our values," Mbappe said at a press conference.

French National Assembly elections are scheduled for June 30 and July 7.

Sócrates' Democracia Corintiana and the Diretas Já campaign

Sócrates (R) during the Diretas Já! campaign.

Sócrates (R) during the Diretas Já! campaign.

Credit: memoriasdaditadura.org.br

Named after the famed Greek philosopher, Sócrates was a master of Ginga football. He was one of the very best footballers that Brazil has ever produced, even if he never won the World Cup for the Canarinha.

But Brazilians don't remember him for his skills at playing football. What they remember is an icon that fought for them and their rights.

During the very end stages of Brazil's dictatorship, Sócrates was one of the most vocal voices calling for democracy in the country, especially during the Diretas Já campaign. During the campaign, he vowed to stay in Brazil and reject an offer from Italy, should elections be held in the country.

His philosophies and ideologies led to Democracia Corintiana, or Corinthian Democracy, a protest against the dictatorship.

According to El Pais, players, coaches, and all employees of Sócrates ' then club Corinthians, agreed to make internal decisions by means of a vote in which everyone’s vote counted equally.

Brazil officially transitioned backed to a democracy when José Sarney assumed the presidency in 1985.

The iconic nation forming kick of Zvonimir Boban

The iconic image of Boban kicking the police officer.

The iconic image of Boban kicking the police officer.

Credit: X/@_forgottenfooty

Zvonimir Boban, to many modern day football fans, is not a name that one would recognise quickly, though he won many Scudettos and even a UCL for AC Milan.

But show any Croat the iconic photo above, and they will tell you that it was this kick from Boban that was that birthed their nation.

On May 13, 1990, when tensions were high in Yugoslavia, and football hooliganism was at its peak in the country, Dinamo Zagreb were playing a match against Red Star Belgrade. During the match, a few violent fans made their way onto the pitch.

Boban, who spotted a police officer beating a Dinamo fan, ran over and karate kicked the official in the face, letting his displeasure known to them.

This led to Belgrade fans tearing down the Stadion Maksimir, while the police just watched it happen. Boban infamously said, "Where is the police? Where is the bloody police?", according to serieaweekly.com.

The incident is said to have deepened the feelings of separatism and inspired many Croats to join the war of independence, which later led to the formation of Croatia. The kick itself is seen was a symbol of the uprising against the 70-year Serbian domination in Yugoslavia.

In 1998, Boban led Croatia as captain to 3rd place in their first World Cup participation post-independence.

Lucarelli, communism and Serie-A refs

Cristiano Lucarelli.

Cristiano Lucarelli. 

Credit: X/@garistengah_id

Unlike most footballers, to Cristiano Lucarelli, his political ideology was his identity. An avid believer of communism, he expressed his views through various gestures throughout his career.

Most famously, when playing for Livorno, a club with communist ideals, he had said, “we [Livorno] get no favors from the referees because we are Communists!”, words that he later retracted according to Mirror.

The lover letters of Zapatistas and Zanetti

Javier Zanetti.

Javier Zanetti.

Credit: X/@javierzanetti

The Zapatistas movement, once an armed revolution with the intention of fighting for indigenous rights, resources and protection in the Chiapas region, had started to slowly become a political entity in Mexico and gain international recognition.

How they managed to find their way into the heart of former Argentinian side-back Javier Zanetti is unknown, but they left a deep impression on him.

In 2004, when they were at the height of media recognition, the Zapatistas movement received aid from Zanetti in form of changing room fines, an ambulance, football gear and an Inter Milan shirt with his name and number on the back, as reported by Vice.

Along with the aid was a letter that read, "We believe in a better world, an unglobalised world, enriched by the cultural differences and customs of all the people. This is why we want to support you in this struggle to maintain your roots and fight for your ideals."

In reply, the Zapatistas said, "We know that we are not alone on the path of this struggle."

Zanetti was the reason Inter formed a close relationship with the Zapatistas, and through them, the people of Chiapas. The Argentinian still engages in a lot of charitable work, especially for the poor.

(With Reuters' inputs)

Published 19 June 2024, 17:04 IST

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