Press

Such is the popularity of football that some players become better known for their 'off-the-pitch' activities. The celebrity status is such that advertisers and sports goods manufacturers hire them to sponsor their products. The Brazilian footballer Pelé is such a player. He was so admired as a player during his time that he went on to become a UNICEF ambassador, as well as being a spokesman in advertisements for many different companies. He also spent some time in politics in Brazil.

Former FIFA World Player of the Year, European Footballer of the Year, and African Footballer of the Year George Weah secured most votes in the first round of the 2005 Liberian presidential election, but was defeated in the run-off ballot.

Another football celebrity is the English footballer David Beckham. He is a trend-setter in England, with his frequent hairstyle changes triggering copycat looks in the country. He is also married to the former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, and his relationship difficulties were widely reported in the UK press in 2004 and 2005. Statues have been made of him, notably at a Buddhist temple as well as made out of chocolate. Becks, or golden balls as he is also known, was a longtime Emporio Armani model, famous for his underwear advertisements.

In late 2009 Beckham was replaced by Cristiano Ronaldo and Hugh Laurie as Armani's primary footballer/model. Ronaldo, former Manchester United player and currently a player for Real Madrid, has amassed a massive fan base thanks to his blistering speed and mesmerising skills.

Many other players have also become celebrities and are treated as heroes by the fans. Retired players, such as Gary Lineker, have become celebrities in their own right by working on television or radio. Even non-footballers who are connected to football have become famous through their association alone. After the 2002 World Cup the head of the South Korean Football Association decided to run for president of the country