John Foot: A Qaddafi Son, Italian Soccer and the Power of Money





[John Foot, the Professor of Modern Italian History in the Department of Italian at University College in London, splits his time between England and Milan. Foot’s book, “Winning at All Costs: A Scandalous History of Italian Soccer” (Nation Books, $17.95), is a comprehensive and entertaining history of calcio, or soccer, in Italy.]

Over the years, one of the charges against the murderous regime of Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi was that state funds were being used to further the footballing career of his third-oldest son, Al Saadi. He was once thought to run the Libyan Football Federation. It is hard to know if Libyan football will survive revolution and civil war, but it is worth telling the story, again, of Saadi’s surreal, so-called career in Italian football.

Of course, links between Libya and Italy go back a long way. Libya was an Italian colony between 1911 and 1947 and Italy’s economic interests there have remained strong since. In particular, Fiat, Italy’s biggest company, has always been interested in Libyan oil, and did a lot of business with Qaddafi. Fiat is the owner of Italy’s oldest and most successful team, and the team with the most fans — Juventus. The Qaddafi family built up considerable holdings in Juventus, obtaining, according to some reports as much as seven percent of shares in the clubs in recent years. In 2002, the Italian Supercup final was played in Tripoli, the currently embattled Libyan capital, thanks to these links.

It is perhaps for this reason that Saadi Qaddafi thought that he might be able to play in Serie A, despite not being good enough. The strategy was simple — pay teams to have him in their squad, and train with the first team. He might even get a few minutes on the field, on rare occasions....


comments powered by Disqus