Euro elections: Footballer Smicer taking on Europe

Vladimir Smicer playing for Liverpool, in red strip, 2005 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Vladimir Smicer (right) has different goals now that he is in politics

He is, perhaps, the only Czech European Parliament candidate you've ever heard of.

Former Liverpool midfielder Vladimir Smicer is one of the Czech Republic's most successful footballers, still remembered for his long-range goal in the heart-stopping 2005 Champions League final.

He retired from playing in 2009, and recently took up a coaching position at his old club, Slavia Prague.

Now he's entered politics - and will be hoping to give a lacklustre European election campaign a good kick.

Smicer is among 25 candidates standing for an obscure Czech party called Vize 2014 (Vision 2014). As a political candidate, he's refreshingly honest about his goals.

"It's not my ambition to be an MEP," he writes on the party's website, proudly sporting his bright red Slavia shirt. He explains that Vision 2014's stance on sport and physical fitness is close to his heart.

"In the Czech Republic obesity rates among children have quadrupled in the last 15 years," says Smicer. "More than half of the adult population of the EU are overweight or obese. Amongst children it's one in seven. I see it in the kids around me. Fitness isn't 'in'," he goes on.

"We've got to get our kids away from their computers, tablets and smartphones and get them moving. This is something Europe needs to care about."

Image copyright Screengrab - party website
Image caption Smicer is featured (bottom left) on the Vize 2014 website

So what hope of election success for "Smica", to use his Slavia nickname? Well, not much frankly. About the same as Wolverhampton Wanderers winning the Champions League.

"The problem is that Vladimir Smicer is standing for a party that no-one's ever heard of and which has zero chance of getting into the European Parliament," says Jindrich Sidlo, chief analyst for the country's leading economic daily Hospodarske noviny.

"And I'm not just saying that because I'm an Arsenal fan - he was a great player," Sidlo adds.

Thinking local

Smicer's candidature aside, Czechs seem wholly apathetic about the European Parliament as campaigning intensifies ahead of the 22-25 May elections.

"I'd say Czechs are almost totally uninterested in these elections, and I imagine turnout will be pretty low," Sidlo told the BBC.

"Anyway the parties use themes which are linked to domestic politics. So for example the Civic Democrats are campaigning against Czech adoption of the euro - but that's something that will be decided here in the Czech Republic, not the European Parliament," he went on.

"The European Parliament elections really just provide a signal as to who's likely to win the next (local and Senate) elections in the autumn. That's far more important."

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