The former cricket great Imran Khan is on the verge of becoming prime minister of Pakistan. Innumerable jocks have turned into politicians around the world, starting from the high school quarterback who is elected class president. But the confluence of all-time great athlete and head of government represented by Khan is rare.
If you don’t follow the sport, you might not know that Khan was not merely a garden-variety professional athlete, but was probably the greatest cricketer ever from Pakistan, a country where cricket is by far the dominant sport. He is also one of the sport’s best ever all-rounders, players who can both bat and bowl well. Now on the cusp of the top office in the land, he is looking for a rarely achieved double.
Among those who have served in high office around the world are Lasse Viren (four track gold medals, Finland parliament), Sebastian Coe (two track gold medals, M.P., now Lord Coe), Vitali Klitschko (heavyweight champion, mayor of Kiev), Manny Pacquiao (multiple boxing championships, Philippines senate), Romário (World Cup Golden Ball, Brazil senator), and Ilie Nastase (tennis star, Romanian senate). But none of them were presidents or prime ministers.
The closest to achieving what Khan is poised to achieve may be George Weah, a productive striker who was the winner of soccer’s highest award, the Ballon d’Or, in 1995, playing for A.C. Milan. Last year, he was elected president of Liberia. He and Khan sit at the top of the pile for now. At least until LeBron James, Usain Bolt or Roger Federer takes a shot at high office.