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The football mad tyrant

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Over the last few weeks Muammar Gaddafi’s face has been all over the papers, news broadcasts and online news sites. While the media has focused on NATO’s bombardment of his country and lavish fees paid to American entertainers, news of Gaddafi’s ties to European football have been marginalized, saving European football clubs another round of embarrassment on the world stage.

Loves his football: Gaddafi.

Artists like Mariah Carey, Beyonce, Usher and 50 cent have been spotlighted  because they had received money to perform at one of the private parties that were financed by the Gaddafi family’s money. (Well, if you thought that tyrants and their children had redeeming sides like great taste in art and music you are horribly mistaken). Their fees were paid from monies taken from Libya’s massive oil revenues that has been spread around the entire world on off-shore accounts, at Swiss banks etc.

The Gaddafi’s store 8 billion dollars of their fortune in the Libyan capital of Tripoli alone according to former central bank governor Farhat Bengdara, while common Libyans suffer daily in poverty.  While the entertainers have been exposed, Gaddafi’s links with big European clubs in Italy and Germany haven’t been discussed in the international media during NATO’s and the revolutionaries struggle against the tyrant.

Links with Italian football

Some Gaddafi money has found its way into the hands of European football clubs. It is a well-known fact that Gaddafi owns 7.5 % of the stocks of Juventus football club, which he purchased in 2002 for 21.5 million dollars. The investment group that bought the shares in Juventus for Gaddafi even talked about widening their influence at the club by purchasing another 12.5% of the stocks. If this move had taken place Gaddafi would have owned 20% of the shares of Juventus.(As it stands, Libya is the second largest share holder in Juventus.)

Gaddifi’s son told the former Financial Times David Owen journalist that Libya’s investment in Juventus won’t be threatened by frozen accounts, and European countries pulling their support from the family. Al-Saadi al-Gaddafi told the same journalist a few years earlier(in late 2004) that Libya had tried to purchase the majority of the stocks in Manchester United.

Al-Saadi al-Gaddafi, Gaddafi's third eldest son, posses with Juventus after the team Supercup won the Italian in 2002.

Al-Saadi al-Gaddafi, Gaddafi's third eldest son, posses with Juventus after the team super cup won the Italian in 2002.

The influence of Gaddafi even secured his third eldest son, Al-Saadi al-Gaddafi, a place on the roster of the Italian club AC Perugia. After one match for the first team and a suspension for steroid use, Al-Saadi al-Gaddafi left Perugia and joined Udinese, where he played one match for the first team (against AC Milan).  Gaddadi’s son got one last season in Italy when he joined Sampadoria, where he didn’t play a single match. Al-Saadi al-Gaddafi is now the president of the Libyan FA, based on his great athletic prowess based in playing club football in the Middle East, where anecdotes tell of defenders peeling away as the dictator’s son moved up the pitch with the ball in possession.(It is certainly not based on the many polls taken amongst Serie A fans, most of which have repeatedly declared Al-Saadi al-Gaddafi to be the worst Serie A player in the history of the league.)

Furthermore, the Italian super cup final was held in the Libya’s capital, Tripoli, in 2002. If that doesn’t show the influence Gaddafi has had on Italian football, I don’t know what will.

Additionally Gaddafi holds roughly 2.5% of the Italian bank Unicredit through an investment group. Unicredit isn’t an unknown quantity to Italian football fans, as the bank was in charge of selling AS Roma after the previous owners had to find a way to repay their debt to the bank.(In essence: Libya was an indirect investor of the AS Roma.)

Berti Vogts lifting the Uefa cup in 1979, a few months later the Foals went to Libya to entertain Gaddafi.

Gaddafi’s favorite team

However, it wasn’t an Italian team that was invited to Libya to celebrate Gaddafi’s ten year anniversary as the leader of Libya, but a team from Germany. Borussia Mönchengladbach were apparently back then the favorite team of the despot, and Borussia’s manager Helmut Grasshof wasn’t shy about accepting a deal that secured the Foals, 100.000 DM,to play a friendly against a team selected of players from Cyrenaica.

Winfried Schäfer recounts in the German football magazine 11 Freunde that especially Edwald Lienen was delighted about this short trip that the team took: Edwald was far to the left on the playing field and political as well, and he really had a thing for revolutions.

Ewald Lienen was a fan of revolutions according to former Gladbach player and KSC coach Winfried Schäfer.

Indeed, back then Gaddafi was still celebrated by some Europeans as the Che Guevara of Northern-Africa. Lienen and the other Foals didn’t get to enjoy this short holiday from the dreary every day business of the Bundesliga too much, as the team was only allowed one short trip to the beach. The match against the Libyan side was easily won 3-1, but Gaddafi, who had splashed out an insane amount of money to see his favorite team, just watched from afar.  The Libyan leader didn’t even come down to the pitch or the dressing room to shake the hands of the players he had invited to his country.

The future

Libya’s future is uncertain. Currently there is no telling whether or not the revolutionaries will succeed and over throw Gaddafi and his cronies. Gaddafi money is stock piled all around the world, and even though countries like Switzerland have frozen some of his assets it may take months, or years to recover all of the money Gaddafi has put into his own pocket at the expense his fellow Libyans, according to Time magazine.

An over throw of the regime might have some consequences for Juventus and Italian football, because of the dictator’s involvement in the football business in Italy.

Sources:
#114 11 Freunde
http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00f1l5k
http://bleacherreport.com/articles/618091-gaddafi-and-his-bizarre-and-financial-links-with-italian-football
Dictators Inc, Vivienne Walt, Time Magazine(July 18th issue)

Feel free to leave a comment.

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About Niklas

Niklas Wildhagen has been following the Bundesliga for over 20 years and he is the editor in chief of the Bundesliga fanatic.

5 responses »

  1. I think the majority of owners have gotten their money from the backs of the poor. It’s a matter if Gaddafi’s money has more blood on it then the Glazer’s? Businessmen are shrewd just as leaders of these countries that use a tyrannical force to oppress their people.

    Reply
  2. A man in Morroco (which incidentally is a foul place full of secret police etc.) once said this to a relative of mine:
    “Gaddafi is the most loved Arab leader”.
    This was because of his using much of the oil money to help his people, may I particularly note his building of a massive series of pipes to transport water to the deeper desert regions, and also because he didn’t oppress his citizens as much as any of the other (foreign backed and promoted) Arab leaders. He still has a high degree of support among his people today.

    Reply
  3. Great article on the deep roots of disgusting behavior endemic in Italian football; just one more reason I’ll never support that league again. You captured it nicely and left enough room for us to infer the deeper meaning of this involvement. Great job again.

    Reply
  4. While undoubtedly an interesting and well-written article, if you think any of the rich owners of football clubs don’t have at least an element of shadiness about the money they acquired then I’m afraid you’re looking at it with rose-tinted spectacles.

    Study how banks made their money in the first place for example. All well and good calling Gadaffi a ‘tyrant’ but at least it’s his oil and the oil of his people, as opposed to stolen from others who helped back puppet governments serving their own corporate interests.

    Reply
    • well, I certainly do not think that banks and football clubs, or any corporate entity for that matter, have any scruples when they want to grow their business. Having said that, shouldn’t we be able to agree upon that you simply have to draw the line somewhere and say: I can’t support this? And, shouldn’t we as consumers tell those corporations “Hey, I won’t purchase your products if you cross a certain line”? If we are able to hurt the bottom line enough corporations can be forced to do the right thing.

      Most Libyan people I have spoken to would disagree with the statement that “it is Gadaffi’s oil”. Having said that, Gadaffi has given a bigger share of the wealth to his people than most other dictators from that region.

      Reply

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