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Spanish football politicians (4th March, 2017)

Given the Roman Zozulya case, here is a list of players who've played in Spain and have political views (I'll keep adding to this list in the future, but here's what I found so far.)

Arda Turan

Friend of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and a hearty advocate of his economic policy. He said in an interview: “There is a tiny bit of volatility in the exchange rate...I believe that interest rates need to fall.

Salva Ballesta 

Former striker. Played for seven La Liga clubs (eight is the record). Nationalistic, far-right viewpoints. When sent off for Málaga against CA Osasuna, whose fans include supporters of Basque independence, he shouted to them "¡Que viva España, hijos de puta!" (Long live Spain, sons of bitches!). Fans of Basque team Real Sociedad displayed a banner reading "Salva, muérete" (Salva, die) when he visited their Anoeta Stadium. Had a dislike for Barcelona defender Oleguer Presas, saying that he had more respect for "dog crap" than for him. His idols include Francoist fighter pilot Joaquín García Morato, Luftwaffe aviator Hans-Ulrich Rudel and Antonio Tejero, leader of the failed "23-F" right-wing coup. Funnily enough, he is a self-declared Christian and considers himself apolitical.

Born to a family with a military background, Salva stated that he would be the first to serve in the Iraq War if conscripted by prime minister José María Aznar. He was a patron of his hometown's military helicopter school.

In February 2013, Salva was turned down for the assistant coach job at Celta de Vigo over his political views.

Oleguer Presas 

An outspoken left-winger and proponent of Catalan independence. Once wrote an article questioning the validity and independence of legal and judicial processes in the Spanish state, using the example of convicted ETA member Iñaki de Juana and his hunger strike to question those processes. His decision to write the article brought veiled criticism at Barcelona, both from coach Rijkaard and President Joan Laporta, as well as earning him disrespectful remarks (the ones from earlier) from fellow professional Salva Ballesta.

As a direct result of the article, Oleguer lost his boot sponsorship with sports firm Kelme, and he subsequently signed for Diadora. On whether he shouldn't have written the article: "The consequences I suffer are nothing compared to what many people go through. What did sadden me, though, was that most people didn't actually read the piece. If people engaged in dialogue with intelligence and still disagreed, then fine, but they didn't".

His book, Camí d'Itaca (The Road to Ithaca), talks about the antifascist struggle and the previous Spanish government's involvement in both Gulf Wars.

While at Ajax, in 2010, Oleguer appeared at a protest in Amsterdam against the Dutch ban on squatting.

Frederic Kanouté

While celebrating a well-taken goal against Deportivo La Coruña in a Copa del Rey match, Sevilla's Frederic Kanouté lifted his club's shirt to reveal a second shirt with the Spanish 'Palestina' and the Arabic, 'Phillistine', protesting against the atrocities being committed in Gaza. The Spanish Football Federation fined the player 3,000 euros. The Palestinian Embassy released a statement thanking the striker for providing an inspiration for Palestinian children, Barcelona's Pep Guardiola publicly condemned the fine as excessive and voiced his own condemnation of the massacre, and Iranian first division club Zob Ahan Isfahan even offered to pay the player's fine as a tribute to the cause.

Oriol Rosell

Pro-Catalan independence, even stating that he would refuse to play for the Spanish national team.


In the 2010 general election, Romário was elected to the Chamber of Deputies on the Brazilian Socialist Party ticket. 

He pushed his political agenda against the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, denouncing the event as immersed in corruption and money laundering. He also expressed disagreement with Sean Kiley, Ricardo Teixeira, Jérôme Valcke and Sepp Blatter. He is one of various figures claiming that the holding of the 2018 FIFA World Cup was "stolen" from England and sold to Russia in a part of 2011 scandal by FIFA.

In February 2014, Romário announced that he would run for the Brazilian senate in the 2014 general election, and in October, Romario was elected to the Brazilian senate with the most votes received ever by a candidate representing the state of Rio de Janeiro.

Diego Maradona

Fervently left wing ideals. Had a friendship with Fidel Castro (whose head is tattooed on Diego’s left leg, next to Che Guevara on the right), come out in support of then Venezulean President Hugo Chávez and become a staunch opponent of American imperialism.

In 2005, he protested against George W Bush’s visit to Argentina by wearing a t-shirt bearing the legend ‘STOP BUSH’ and describing him as human garbage.

Two years later, Diego said on TV: "I hate everything that comes from the United States. I hate it with all my strength”, before presenting a signed shirt to the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He supports neoliberal Argentine President Carlos Menem and his Harvard University-educated economist Domingo Cavallo. He openly supported Hugo Chávez's successor Maduro.

Lilian Thuram

Staunch supporter of the rights of ethnic groups, using his position to tackle racism and highlight the plight of his country’s ignored minorities.

During the French riots of 2005, Thuram challenged then Nicolas Sarkozy’s description of troublemakers as “scum”, saying that the right-wing politician had never lived on an estate.

A year later, he laid on buses to take 70 homeless immigrants expelled from a squat in Paris to France’s game with Italy as a stand against then President Chirac’s immigration policies.

He has engaged in campaigns that favour the Catalan language and that favour the independence of Roussillon (Northern Catalonia) from France.

In January 2013, he took part in a march through Paris to support legalization of same-sex marriage.

José Ángel Iribar

On 5 December 1976, before a game against Real Sociedad, Iribar and the opposing captain, Inaxio Kortabarria, carried out the Ikurriña, the Basque flag, and placed it ceremonially on the centre-circle. This was the first public display of the flag since the death of Francisco Franco, but it was still illegal.

He subsequently became involved in Basque local politics, and was a founding member of the independentist coalition Herri Batasuna.

Javi Poves 

Refused to use a bank account and returned a free car which Sporting had given to each of their players, and retired in August 2011 for reasons of conscience.

"What I've seen from within makes it clear: professional football is only money and corruption. It's capitalism, and capitalism is death. I don't want to be part of a system based on people earning money at the expense of the deaths of others in South America, Africa and Asia. To put it simply, my conscience will not let me continue with this."

Made a return for a year though in 2014 with San Sebastián de los Reyes. 

Very Rayo thing to say. Oh wait, he was a Rayo youth graduate.

Paulino Alcántara

Barcelona legend who in the 1930s became a member of the Falange Española, the variant of Spanish Fascism. On 4 August 1936, he fled to Andorra and France for failing to Franco's coup in Barcelona from 18 July 1936. In 1936 Alcantara was Carlist volunteer and participated in numerous military operations of the fascist troops of Francisco Franco. During the Spanish Civil War, Alcántara was Lieutenant of the first fascist battalion of the Brigade Legionary Black Arrows (Frecce Nere). The Black Arrows was a fascist volunteer corps (Corpo Truppe Volontarie) directed directly by Benito Mussolini.

With the fascist Black Arrows, Alcantara served on the fronts of Guadalajara, Aragon and Catalonia. He entered victorious by Barcelona with General Yagüe on 26 January 1939. Yagüe became known as the "The Butcher of Badajoz" because he ordered thousands killed, including wounded men in the hospital. After the Spanish Civil War, Paulino Alcántara lived in Barcelona and was Lieutenant of the fascists Italians Black Arrows. During the dictatorship of Francisco Franco, Alcántara was a Chief of the Falange Española Tradicionalista y de las JONS.

Carlos António Gomes

He was a known opponent of the Portugese fascist regime and it is believed, like he claimed, that the allegations of rape against him were a set-up, created by the political police of the regime to force him to leave football. After a simulated injury in an Atlético game with Vitória Guimarães, he escaped to Spain.

Ricardo Zamora

Despite playing regularly for the Catalan XI, he was accused of rejecting Catalan nationalism. In 1934 he was awarded an Order of the Republic medal by his namesake Niceto Alcalá-Zamora, president of the Second Spanish Republic.

In July 1936 during the early days of the Spanish Civil War, ABC falsely reported that Zamora had been killed by Republicans. The Nationalists then attempted to exploit this as propaganda. However Zamora was alive and well and, as rumours began to spread of his death, he was arrested by Republican militia and then imprisoned at the Modelo prison. His life was saved by both the actions of the prison governor Melchor Rodríguez García and because of his own willingness to play and talk football with the guards. 

Zamora was eventually released after the Argentinian Embassy interceded on his behalf. He then made his way to France where he was reunited with Josep Samitier at OGC Nice. He later returned to Spain and on 8 December 1938 played for a Spain XI against Real Sociedad in a benefit game for Nationalist soldiers. During the 1950s he was awarded the Great Cross of the Order of Cisneros by Franco.

Edit: Added 10th March, 2017

Savo Milošević

Political supporter of the Democratic Party led by Boris Tadić, having supported it since 1993 after meeting with Zoran Đinđić and officially becoming a member in 2003. He took part in the 1996–97 protests and the 5 October Overthrow.

Sergi Guardiola

Signed a one-and-a-half year deal with FC Barcelona B, but was released hours later after the discovery of offensive tweets about the club and Catalonia made in 2013. He claimed they were made by a friend as a joke, and that he had not noticed they had been posted.

Eñaut Zubikarai

Having spent his entire career in the Basque Country, the goalkeeper's was about to sign for Hércules on loan from Real Sociedad in 2011, when El Mundo uncovered his father's affiliation with the Basque separatist group ETA, for which he was sentenced to 30 years in prison for the murder of two civil guards in 1989. Officially, the Alicante club cancelled the deal due to economic disagreements, but few believe that to be the reality.

Eduardo Teus

Filipino goalkeeper who held strong right-wing political views, and was charged by Franco to manage the Spanish national team from 1941-42.

Salvador Artigas

Served as a pilot for the Republicans during the Spanish Civil War.

Tomás Reñones

Took up a career in politics after retiring, being elected by Grupo Independiente Liberal (GIL, founded by longtime Atlético president Jesús Gil) to the Marbella city hall, in the sports departments.

After the local mayor was arrested due to a corruption scandal, he took office in 2006 as interim, but soon faced the same charges and was arrested by the Spanish police, as part of Operation Malaya.

Jesús Gil

Ok, so he didn't actually play any football, but he was the president of Atlético for 16 years.

In 1991, he founded and led the Grupo Independiente Liberal (GIL), and was elected as mayor of Marbella the same year. He installed a bust of former dictator, Franco, in the town hall and was known for walking the streets of the town shouting abuse at prostitutes and homeless people. His "popularity" as a mayor got him re-elected three times.

In April 2002, he was banned for 28 years from holding public office, forced to stand down as mayor and briefly imprisoned.

Famous for his extreme right-wing political views. Once called former Spanish Socialist Workers' Party (PSOE) town councilor Isabel García Marcos as a "whore" during town council meetings and, on one occasion, dubbed journalist Carmen Rigalt as "la jinetera del periodismo" (prostitute of journalism). The Málaga coastline, effectively under the area of economic and political influence of the Gil family, became a popular residence for British, Italian, and Russian gangsters while he was mayor, as well as a haven for former Nazis either awaiting or avoiding extradition, such as Otto Remer and Léon Degrelle. At the same time, however, Gil instigated several crackdowns on drug users and prostitutes. He was involved in several criminal cases, including the so-called Caso de las camisetas and Caso Atlético.

While crime rates and open manifestations of poverty decreased dramatically during the first years of his administration, it was at the expense of civil liberties, including the beatings of delinquents and prostitutes, deportation of foreigners with low incomes, handouts of money to homeless people in exchange for leaving town, etc. The subsequent "apparent" improvement in the lifestyle of a segment of the population was cited as a main reason for his re-election.

The Spanish media have repeatedly compared him to Donald Trump, because of some parallels in their lives and character.

Oh, and Franco once pardoned him from prison. In the 1960s Gil ran a construction firm building gated communities. A complex he had built in San Rafael, near Segovia, collapsed in 1969, killing 58 people and injuring many others. A subsequent investigation showed that the cement in the new building had not yet set, and the whole project had been completed without use of architects, surveyors, or plans. Gil was sentenced to five years in prison, but was pardoned after 18 months by General Francisco Franco.


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