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Top 10 sportspersons turned politicians around the world

Published at :March 31, 2024 at 2:54 PM
Modified at :March 31, 2024 at 3:40 PM
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(Courtesy : NBC news)

Abhiruchi Rout


These legendary athletes used their influence to fight for change.

Following a successful career in sports, athletes often transition into different professions post-retirement. One sector that stands out is politics, where sportspeople contribute to societal change.

These athletes assume positions in government offices, providing their insights and aiding in the transformation of ideas into reality.

Let’s now examine athletes from various fields such as football, wrestling, boxing, cricket, and more, who transitioned into politics worldwide.

Bill Bradley

Bill Bradley, a gold medalist with the U.S. basketball team at the Tokyo Olympics in 1964, served three terms as the United States Senator from New Jersey from January 3, 1979, to January 3, 1997.

He contested for the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in the 2000 United States presidential election, but lost to Vice-President Al Gore.

Jesse Ventura

A professional wrestler turned politician, became the mayor of Brooklyn Park in 1991 and served until 1995. Representing the Reform Party, he became the 38th governor of Minnesota from 1999 to 2003, making him the party’s only candidate to win a major government office.

Aleksandr Karelin

One of the greatest Greco-Roman wrestlers of all-time with three Olympic and nine World Championships gold medals, began his political career in 1999 after receiving an invitation from Vladimir Putin. He served in the State Duma as a representative of Novosibirsk Oblast (1999-2007) and Stavropol Krai (2007-2020).

In 2020, he became the Russian Federation Senator from the Legislative Assembly of Novosibirsk Oblast in the Federation Council.

Romário de Souza

Romário de Souza Faria, known as Romário, secured a seat in the Chamber of Deputies as a member of the Brazilian Socialist Party. He was ranked sixth among the candidates with the highest votes for deputy in Rio de Janeiro.

Known for his prolific football career where he amassed 700 goals as a striker, Romário was elected to the Senate from Rio de Janeiro on October 5, 2014, with 63% of the votes, the most ever received by a candidate representing the Brazilian state. He later assumed the role of the second vice-president of the Federal Senate in February 2021 and served until February 2023.

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Manny Pacquiao

Manny Pacquiao, one of the greatest professional boxers of all-time, assumed office as a senator of the Philippines from June 30, 2016, to June 30, 2022, after being the representative of Sarangani for six years.

On September 19, 2021, Pacquiao announced his candidature for the position of the president of the nation at the Philippine presidential election, but lost to Bongbong Marcos, the current President of the country.

George Weah

George Weah, after an 18-year career as a professional footballer (striker) representing Liberia, entered politics following his retirement from the sport. He was elected to the Liberian Senate on December 20, 2014 with a huge margin, as he collected 99,226 votes representing 78.0% of the overall votes from 141 polling centers.

This election made him the first international athlete to represent the country in the legislature. In the 2017 election for the position of President, Weah assumed the role after defeating incumbent vice-president Joseph Boakai, serving from January 22, 2018 to January 22, 2024

Vitali Klitschko

Vitali Klitschko is presently the mayor of Kyiv, also known as Head of Kyiv City. Klitschko, one of the most successful professional boxers in the heavyweight category, entered politics in 2006.

On May 25, 2014, he was elected as the mayor of Kyiv and took office on June 5, 2014. He was again elected as the mayor during the Kyiv local election with 50.52% of the votes in the election’s first round.

Pelé

Pelé, widely-regarded as one of the greatest footballers of all-time, was appointed as the First Minister of Sports of Brazil by then-President Fernando Cardoso on January 1, 1995. He served in this role for three years before resigning on April 30, 1998.

Imran Khan

Imran Khan, former captain of the Pakistan national men’s cricket team, served as the nation’s Prime Minister from August 18, 2018, to April 10, 2022. The political party he established in 1996, Tehreek-e-Insaf, won 116 out of the 270 contested seats.

After securing 176 votes, Imran Khan became the 22nd Prime Minister of Pakistan, taking the oath of office on August 18, 2018. However, in April 2022, he was removed from the position after numerous opposition parties joined hands and filed a no-confidence motion against him in the National Assembly.

Arnold Schwarzenegger

Arnold Schwarzenegger, renowned for his professional bodybuilding career, served as the Governor of California from November 17, 2003, to January 3, 2011. Running as a Republican, he received 48.6% of the vote, leading the Democratic Party’s Cruz Bustamante by 17 points.

He took the oath to fulfill the remainder of Joseph Davis’ term and got re-elected in the California gubernatorial election in 2006 with a vote of 55.9% to work for a full term. His term as governor ended in 2011, after which he returned to his acting career.

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