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Georgian Footballer-Turned-Politician Takes On Ministerial Role

Georgian ex-footballer Kakha Kaladze is set to become a key member of Bidzina Ivanishvili's new government.
Georgian ex-footballer Kakha Kaladze is set to become a key member of Bidzina Ivanishvili's new government.
Most soccer fans will remember Kakha Kaladze as a tough-tackling, marauding left back for AC Milan, who also chipped in with the odd spectacular goal.

Since retiring from football last year after winning numerous Georgian and Ukrainian league titles with Dinamo Tbilisi and Dynamo Kyiv, as well as two Champions League medals with "i Rossoneri," the onetime "Desailly of the Caucasus" has been focusing on politics.

He successfully stood for parliament earlier this month as a member of billionaire Bidzina Ivanishvili's Georgian Dream coalition.

Now, it's been announced that he is set to become Georgia's new energy minister.

It's a pretty meteoric rise for a man who is still only 34, but he does have a wealth of life experience that belies his tender years.

Besides a stellar soccer career, Kaladze has established himself as a successful businessman.

He owns a majority interest in the Tbilisi-based Progress Bank and he reportedly also has investment interests in Ukraine, Italy, and Kazakhstan.

In addition to his business pursuits, Kaladze is very involved in charitable activities, notably serving as a FIFA ambassador for SOS Children's Villages.

In 2008, he set up the Kala Foundation, which focuses on providing support to talented young footballers and also funds various charity endeavors, such as raising thousands of dollars for South Ossetian refugees during Georgia's conflict with Russia four years ago.

Despite his many successes, it's well known that Kaladze's life has also been touched by tragedy.

WATCH: A look at Kakha Kaladze's career as a footballer

In 2001, just after Kaladze had secured a lucrative move to AC Milan, his brother Levan was kidnapped and a ransom of $650,000 was demanded.

The courage Kaladze showed in continuing to turn out for Milan while his brother's fate remained unknown won the admiration of football fans all over the world and marked him out as a man with a strong character.

The subsequent failure of the Georgian authorities to locate his sibling (whose remains were eventually found in 2006) frustrated Kaladze to such a degree that he briefly considered taking up Ukrainian citizenship.

In the end, however, he changed his mind, saying he couldn't turn his back on his homeland "out of respect for the Georgian people."

Now he is set to embark on a career serving the country he once threatened to abandon.

Although the cut and thrust of parliamentary politics is a far more complex and much less straightforward occupation than that of a professional footballer, this famously competitive defender appears to be up for the challenge.

"The most important match in my life [is] starting now," he told the AFP news agency, shortly before his election.

If he is anywhere near as successful a politician as he was a footballer, it's likely that we'll be hearing about Kakha Kaladze for some time to come.

-- Coilin O'Connor

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Written by RFE/RL editors and correspondents, Transmission serves up news, comment, and the odd silly dictator story. While our primary concern is with foreign policy, Transmission is also a place for the ideas -- some serious, some irreverent -- that bubble up from our bureaus. The name recognizes RFE/RL's role as a surrogate broadcaster to places without free media. You can write us at

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