Silvio Berlusconi’s ownership of Milan and status of prime minister of Italy had probably had some effect on the Rossoneri. Milan’s famous striker George Weah had announced his candidacy for the presidency of Liberia and had even won the first round. Andriy Shevchenko had created his own party and participated in the parliamentary elections of Ukraine. Still, the most successful player of Milan in terms of politics was Kakha Kaladze, current energy minister of Georgia and prime minister’s advisor.
Kaladze’s teams in football and politics
Kakha Kaladze’s first team was his native Samtredia’s Dynamo, which he joined at the age of 8. Two other Dynamos were still to come, namely, the Tbilisi club, where he spent the years between 1993 and 1997 and the greater Dynamo Kyiv, where Valeriy Labanovskyi led him to the Champions League semifinal of 1998/99. While in these teams, Kaladze uninterruptedly gained 8 championships.
The famous Soviet coach played an important role in the footballer’s life and raised him to a higher level. In 2001, Milan paid 16 million Euros for Kaladze – a sum quite uncommon in the transfer market of the day.
The Georgian defender found his way in Italy, and despite not having Maldini’s stable place in the squad, did appear on the field gaining a name of a reliable substitute.
Kaladze wore the Milan T-shirt for 194 matches, authored 12 goals, twice won the Champions League, the Europa Supercup and the Teams World Cup, became Italy champion, cup and super cup holder. Not many in the world have this rich collection of medals and none has in Georgia.
In 2010, 2 days before the final day of the transfer window, Kaladze signed a deal with Genoa, his last football team: on May 12, 2012, Kaladze concluded his career.
At the beginning of 2012, while still being considered an active footballer, Kaladze appeared in another team. This time it was politics. Kakha supported Bidzina Ivanishvili’s Georgian Dream and joined efforts with him in the very first days the alliance, with which the billionaire sought to bring his plan to life, was created.
Entering politics was no easy task for Kaladze, who lacked higher education and experience in this domain – aspects, which his opponents repeatedly poked at. Notwithstanding this, the former Italian defender, as he later said, was always ready for “rough sliding tackles”.
Although being the most titled Georgian footballer, famous all over the world, Kaladze has never, even while still active in sport, enjoyed absolute acclaim in Georgia. Asking around in the Tbilisi streets for the most popular footballer, one would ofter hear the names of Giorgi Kinkladze and Shota Arveladze.
Of course, a defender finds it more difficult to impress football fans with his play. But in Kaladze’s case there was more to it. In 2009, he scored 2 own goals in the Georgia – Italy official match and caused his team’s defeat. This cast him out to hefty criticism and gained him the nickname Kamikaladze in the Georgian press and Internet networks.
Kakha was active out of the field during his football career. He owned the Kala Capital investment company created in 2008 in Georgia and aimed at investing primarily in energy. Besides, Kaladze founded a still-active bank in Georgia. He has a chain of restaurants in Kyiv. Another restaurant belonged to him in Milan, which he sold once it was sufficiently sought after.
Initially, Kaladze sympathized with Sahakashvili. The latter, however, greatly disappointed the footballer after several years at power. The tension between them brought about to hindrances for Kaladze’s business projects in Georgia. Further, his accounts were frozen and a well-planned propaganda was launched, which even accused him of deliberately capsizing matches. The footballer refused to surrender and countered the blows.
It was in May 2012 Kaladze announced he would no more be playing. Nevertheless, his final match took place a year later. The then president Sahakashivli’s team refused to allocate Kakha the stadium in September 2012, realizing the former Milan player’s final match might significantly strengthen the Georgian Dream on the eve of elections.
On June 1, 2013թ, Tbilisi’s Dynamo stadium hosted stars no less famous than those of this year’s UEFA Super Cup. Paolo Maldini, Andrիy Shevchenko, Filippo Inzaghi, Fabio Canavaro, Luca Toni, Hakan Şükür and others featured in the lineups of Milan and Kaladze’s Friends.
Though the former won 3:1, Kaladze’s Friends’ sole goal proved more effective, for it was scored by former Georgian footballer Georgi Demetradze, put to prison under the “Sahakashvili rule” for alleged ties to the criminal world and released due to the amnesty initiated by Ivanishvili and Kaladze.
Kakha had invited both old and new friends to his testimonial match. “I asked Kakha whether he would rather be a forward than a defender”, spoke Ivanishvili to the 50 000 fans at the stadium. “He said he wanted to be in the defense, and while I was worried he eyed the office of the minister of defense, he added, “I will be there, where my country needs me, be it even the goals””.
Kakha Kaladze was seen last summer aiding those stricken by the Tbilisi flood. He has always been in front as a public figure in Georgia and may retain his position. The prospects are vaguer in his political life – a domain void of moral principles. The time will show whether the former Rossoneri will have reliable partners as Maldioni and Nesta were, always ready to stand for him and improve possible faults.
As for the current season, it will end next year, when Georgia will once again hold parliamentary elections.