Ukrainian soccer legend Andriy Shevchenko, now retired from the sport, has entered politics and on July 29 threw his support behind Verkhovna Rada member Nataliya Korolevska and her Ukraine-Forward Party. Her multimillion-dollar media blitz and prominent air time on government-friendly media outlets has prompted speculation that she is a fake oppostion candidate whose campaign is designed to siphon votes from true oppositional forces in the race. Parliamentary elections are Oct. 28.
Katya Gorchinskaya writes: Andriy Shevchenko is no longer a really good footballer.
As of July 28, he’s a really bad politician, after joining forces with parliament member Nataliya Korolevska and leader of the Ukraine-Forward Party. Some will give him the benefit of the doubt. I won’t. I will give him five predictions.
Prediction number 1
The first line of Wikipedia about him at the moment reads like this: Andriy Mykolayovych Shevchenko is a retired Ukrainian footballer. It will be amended to say “and a failed politician.” As a footballer, Shevchenko has been the pride of the nation, sex idol for many women and role model for many men. Winner of the 2004 Golden Ball, the dream of every football player in the world, he’s the man who put Ukraine on the map for all football fans in Italy and Britain. Happily married with two children, and expecting a third, he looked accomplished even without a career in politics. He has few gifts needed to be a good politician: he is infamously tongue-tied and slow-witted, and has never really expressed any inclination for social projects. Unless he was hiding it well.
Prediction number 2
He joined the wrong side. When I was reading Korolevska’s op-ed pieces two years ago, I was impressed. She seemed to have good ideas that would take the country in the right direction. She was extremely prolific in parliament, pushing for good initiatives like the declarative principle for running a business. That means that a business considers itself as having a license from the moment it files paperwork to the relevant government body, without having to wait for the bureaucracy to respond.
But then it suddenly drained. She nominally took over a party that had existed for years before, as well as TV screens and billboards. Her ads became populist and tasteless, smacking of Big Brother – or I should say Big Mother. Her party, which now carries the name of Forward Ukraine, is a money-spending machine designed to siphon off middle-class votes from the opposition. Her sources of money are unclear and non-transparent. We have seen parties like these many times before. They sprouted a year before elections, in the same style, with the same aim, and died soon after. This one will, too. RIP.
Prediction number 3
Shevchenko’s political career will be short-lived and full of regrets. His children will be happy to talk about his football career, but will go quiet and look down when they are asked about his political life.
Shevchenko has been on the losing side before. He joined up with ex-presidential chief of staff Viktor Medvedchuk and ex-President Leonid Kuchma before. Medvedchuk is now trying to get back into politics with the help of his buddy Russian President Vladimir Putin, while Kuchma is retired and from time to time is fighting off a criminal case related to the murder of journalist Georgiy Gongadze in 2000. So, Shevchenko’s former partners in politics are hardly having a happy life. Chances are his third attempt will be the same.
Prediction number 4
Shevchenko will carry the “for sale” label for the rest of his life. Mustafa Nayym, an influential journalist, made a punchy comment on his Facebook page. “I only have one sincere question: how much?” There is probably not a single person in the world who believes that Shevchenko joined Korolevska’s team for an idea. The other option is for money. Shevchenko will always be remembered as a guy who picked his friends based on the size of their wallet – even if it’s not true.
Prediction number 5
With everything else said, the last prediction is that Shevchenko has made a decision he is going to regret. How can he not? By adding weight to a Potyomkin village-style party and giving it more credibility in the eyes of Ukrainians, he might change the political disposition of the next parliament. And, unfortunately, I don’t believe it’s for the better.
Kyiv Post editor Katya Gorchinskaya can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org