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Seven footballers who took a shot at the entertainment field, with varying success

Following news that Lionel Messi will be the subject of a new Cirque du Soleil show next year, we look back at seven other footballers who tried their hand in film, television and music

PUBLISHED : Friday, 12 October, 2018, 3:40pm
UPDATED : Friday, 12 October, 2018, 3:42pm

As if he has not entertained soccer fans enough on the pitch, now Barcelona and Argentina star Lionel Messi will be the subject of a new Cirque du Soleil show next year that focuses on the superstar’s stellar career.

Agence France-Presse reports that the five-time world player of the year confirmed the new development and was humbled by the offer.

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“I am proud to announce the creation of a new Cirque du Soleil show in 2019 based on the story of my life and passion for football,” said Messi, whose Instagram feed showed him clad in a T-shirt of the Canadian troupe famed for their extravagant shows.

Messi had posted a video on Monday of himself wearing the shirt and juggling what appeared to be a red clown nose.

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A post shared by Cirque du Soleil (@cirquedusoleil) on Oct 11, 2018 at 7:41am PDT

He isn’t the first soccer player to dabble in show business when not doing his day job. Here are seven others who enjoyed some fame off the pitch.

1. Vinnie Jones

For English soccer hard man Vinnie Jones, all he had to do was translate his midfield enforcer persona onto the big screen and he suddenly had a film career.

Having helped Wimbledon win the FA Cup in 1988, and playing professionally for 15 years with other English clubs such as Leeds United and Chelsea, Jones found even more fame by appearing in the Guy Ritchie films Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch.

Hollywood soon beckoned and he has been playing the bad-guy role in films there ever since.

2. Eric Cantona

If Jones’ hard-man image on the soccer pitch paved the way for his career as an actor, then Cantona’s aloof and maverick image as a player was the perfect segue into the film industry.

At Manchester United he won four Premier League titles in five years and two League and FA Cup doubles in a glittering career. On his retirement, the eccentric entertainer played the role of a French ambassador in the film Elizabeth in 1998 and received critical acclaim in 2009 for his role in Ken Loach’s Looking for Eric. He has appeared regularly in French films and stage plays since.

3 and 4. Pele and Bobby Moore

The two soccer legends only starred in one film, but it has gone on to become a cult classic.

Escape to Victory is a prisoner-of-war feature that revolves around a wartime match between a German team and Allied prisoners. Pele’s character, Luis Fernandez, famously made the game 4-4 with an overhead kick, and he also helped choreograph most of the action scenes.

A little-known fact is that Moore was manager of Hong Kong side Eastern Sports Club at the time of the filming in 1981. Moore plays Terry Brady, who has to step aside and let Michael Caine skipper the team, but at least the World Cup-winning captain gets to open the scoring for the Allies.

Former Liverpool, Ipswich and Scotland midfielder John Wark also appeared in the film. “I get asked about Escape to Victory more than I do about football,” he once told Four Four Two magazine. “People aren’t really interested in anything else.”

5. Paul Gascoigne

In the wake of his heroics for England at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, former Newcastle United star Paul Gascoigne became a national hero.

As “Gazzamania” swept Britain, he saw his big chance at being a pop star and grabbed it. Linking up with Geordie folk-rock legends Lindisfarne, Gazza recorded an inimitable “rap” version of their classic track Fog on the Tyne.

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The song went on to reach number two in the UK singles charts in the run-up to Christmas in 1990.

“While Gazza’s timing might be perfect on the football field, when it came to filming the video, he was a bit off the mark,” reported the Evening Chronicle.

Gazza would enjoy one more chart hit, Geordie Boys, which reached a modest 31 on the hit parade.

6. Rene Higuita

Former Colombia goalkeeper Higuita, nicknamed El Loco, is famous for pulling off a scorpion kick – by leaping forward, raising his legs behind him, and kicking the ball off the line with his heels – while playing against England at Wembley in 1995.

But after being voted his country’s ugliest icon in 2005, Higuita had extensive plastic surgery live on the Colombian reality show Cambrio Extremo (“Extreme Change”), including a silicon chin implant, skin peels, aggressive liposuction and abdominal muscle enhancement, The Sun newspaper reported.

“Bodily, I’m perfect,” he boasted afterwards.

7. Anthony LaPaglia

Above are some examples of footballers who became actors, but this man did it the other way around.

While he may sound like a native New Yorker in the US television series Without a Trace, LaPaglia was born in Australia. He moved to the United States in the early 1980s to further his acting career.

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A long-time soccer goalkeeper – with serious hip surgeries to show for it ­– he played professionally in Australia, and has been a part-owner of Sydney FC since the club’s inception in 2004.