Not just in Malaysia: 7 times politics and football treaded murky waters

Politics and football have been inextricably linked in some parts of the world and Malaysia’s opposition party Pakatan Harapan recently jumped on the bandwagon, promising live coverage of foreign leagues on free-to-air television. FourFourTwo presents a list of seven other times football was more than just a game...

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Big-spending Middlesbrough were in trouble after being fined by the FA in 1905 for paying bonuses to expensive signings and for falsifiying accounts.

Up stepped the ambitious Lieutenant Colonel Gibson-Poole who took control of the club, reportedly as a conduit for his political ambition.

Middlesbrough won the match 1-0 but Gibson-Poole still lost the elections

But after repaying fines that the club owed the FA, the FA found Gibson-Poole was using the club’s purses to fund his political activity and he was ordered to repay £500 and fined.

The worst was yet to come. In December 1910, Gibson-Poole was also running for office and needed all the extra support he could get to swing the votes. He thought a good win over table-toppers Sunderland would give him the edge.

Bribes were offered and the word eventually got to the FA, who suspended Gibson-Poole, manager Andy Walker and warned Boro of expulsion from the sport if there were further malpractice. Middlesbrough won the match 1-0 but Gibson-Poole still lost the elections.


Bolivian president Evo Morales is an avid football fan but it could not have been anything more than a political stunt when he signed for top division side Sport Boys Warnes in 2014.

After all, he was 54 at the time!

The club insisted Morales deserves a place in the team and the president was given the minimum wage and handed the coveted No.10 jersey. 

Morales, who previously had been known to dish out some questionable tackles during friendly matches, was re-elected into office for a third term at the end of 2014.


While former Thailand Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra’s purchase of English Premier League side Manchester City in 2007 never had a direct political twist to things, some analysts in the country believed his venture in English football was an effort to stay in public eye.

Thailand, like in many parts of Southeast Asia, is a country obsessed with England’s top-flight and success at City may have been seen as a way to resurrect his political career after being kicked out in a coup in 2006 and banned from politics.

Sven was not a fan of Thaksin

Thaksin was never an ardent football fan and was even criticised by former Thailand skipper Kiatisuk Senamuang in 2006, saying the former “didn’t know how football was played”.

Even City manager Sven-Goran Eriksson, who Thaksin appointed, was critical of the Thai’s understanding of the sport.

Thaksin sold the club to Abu Dhabi United Group after just one season.