90min

When footballers meet politicians

Robbie Copeland
Marcus Rashford is one of the most politically active footballers around
Marcus Rashford is one of the most politically active footballers around / Soccrates Images/Getty Images
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Football and politics. Two worlds which shouldn't really be related, but have become inseparably intertwined over the years.

Marcus Rashford is the latest Premier League star to use his platform as a force for good, influencing the UK government to change policy in the midst of the food poverty crisis.

Rashford met with Prime Minister Boris Johnson last year, and recently spoke to Barack Obama to discuss his new book.

But the Manchester United front man and all-round good egg is not the only high-profile footballer to have met with a politician over the years. We've gone back and had a look at some of the other times the two worlds have crossed paths.


1. Diego Maradona and Fidel Castro

Diego Maradona never hid his political beliefs. 90min's greatest footballer of all time was a proud socialist, and his politics were one of the driving forces behind his status as a national hero in Argentina.

He became friends with Fidel Castro while receiving treatment in Cuba in the 1980s, and met with him several times before his death in 2011.

Maradona idolised Castro and had a tattoo of him on his leg. He also dedicated his El Diego autobiography to him, writing: "To Fidel Castro and, through him, all the Cuban people."


2. Megan Rapinoe and Joe Biden

Here's a video that shouldn't fail to make you smile.

USWNT star Megan Rapinoe was invited to speak about gender inequality at the White House's Equal Pay Day Event earlier this year, and did so with Joe and Jill Biden looking on from the sidelines like proud grandparents.

Rapinoe is a known fan of Biden's and even offered to be his running mate when he successfully stood against Donald Trump in 2020.

Her thoughts on Trump? They're a bit more complicated.


3. Theresa May and Eden Hazard...sort of

Theresa May had apparently never seen a football shirt in her life before Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel presented her with one ahead of England's clash with Belgium at the 2018 World Cup.

The shirt was printed with Eden Hazard's name and number on the back, and was taken by many to be an elaborate prank by Michel. After all, in the midst of the Brexit negotiations, things were a little hazardous at 10 Downing Street...


4. Mesut Ozil and Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Mesut Ozil is another footballer who has been outspoken over his political beliefs, and retired from internationals in 2018, citing discrimination against him due to his Turkish heritage.

Ozil remains a controversial figure in Germany to this day due to his close ties with Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has strong ties to the far right in Turkey.

Erdogan was even the best man at Ozil's wedding, which didn't go down well in his nation of birth.


5. Mesut Ozil, Ilkay Gundogan and Frank-Walter Steinmeier

After Ozil's accusations of racism and discrimination within the German FA hit the press, the German government intervened to try and put things right.

In 2018, German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier met with Ozil and his teammate Ilkay Gundogan, who had also been pictured with Erdogan.

Ozil and Gundogan both denied that they endorsed the politics of Erdogan though - with Ozil explaining they were simply "respecting the highest office of my family's country."


6. Sergio Aguero, David Cameron and Xi Jinping

Chinese president Xi Jinping came to the UK for a state visit in 2015, and for whatever reason, David Cameron decided to round off the tour with a trip to Man City's training ground.

He had earlier met the Queen, but their trip to Manchester saw Jinping cross paths with some real royalty - City's Sergio Aguero.

And the Argentine marked the occasion with one of the oddest selfies in history.


7. Marcus Rashford and Barack Obama

Marcus Rashford is a national hero. His activism during the Covid-19 pandemic demonstrated a strength of character that is rare among millionaire footballers, and he has been hailed far and wide for the compassion and determination he has shown in trying to make a genuine difference.

Barack Obama is among his fans, apparently, and in a touching Zoom interview, the former US President said that, at just 23, the England star is already way ahead of where he was at that age.

If Rashford's gushing, starstruck expression doesn't bring a smile to your face, you may have a problem.

Prime Minister Rashford, anyone..?


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