Is it true that one of Colonel Gaddafi's sons played professional football?
Aug 24, 2011 | 23 : 42 PM
1 answer

Yes, it's a little known aspect of the Gaddafi family's sordid story, but the deposed Libyan dictator's third son Al-Saadi al-Gaddafi, known as Saadi, was a footballer who was every bit as ruthless and egomaniacal as his father when it came to carving out a career in the 'beautiful game'.

Pic: BBC

Saadi began playing professionally in Libya in 2000 as a left-sided midfield player with Al Ahly Tripoli where he quickly exploited his family's vast oil wealth and political power. Saadi was soon elevated to the captaincy not just of the club but of the Libyan national team. For good measure, he also made himself President of the Libyan Football Federation. A lover of fast cars and flashy villas, Saadi was prepared to spend money on his chosen career and at one stage was coached by - amongst others - the banned, former Olympic sprint champion Ben Johnson.

It paid off, in Libya, at least. Saadi made 74 appearances for Al Ahly, scoring three goals, before switching to another Tripoli side Al-Ittihad Tripoli, where he also made 74 appearances, this time scoring 20 goals.

Being Libya's self-appointed 'No 1 footballer' wasn't enough, however, and he soon set his sights on a career in Europe. As early as June 2000 he was reported to have signed for Maltese champions Birkirkara F.C with a view to playing in the Champions League qualification rounds. The deal failed to materialize, however.

Undeterred, Gaddafi and his family set their sights on Italy and, as part of a consortium, he began investing in Serie A club Juventus, spending tens of millions to acquire a 7.5 per cent stake in the Turin club. Saadi even became a member of the Juventus board.

Deep down, however, he still longed to be taken seriously as a professional footballer and in 2003 he was given his big chance. He stepped down from his position at Juventus in order to sign a two-year deal as a player for Perugia of Serie A. At a flashy press conference with Perugia's colourful president Luciano Gaucci, Saadi, then 28, was presented with the Umbrian side's number 19 shirt emblazoned with his name.

The Italian press immediately smelled a rat and dismissed the move as a publicity stunt, suggesting that Saadi had used his millions to buy his way into the Perugia squad. Saadi and Gaucci denied it. "I'm convinced this is good for everyone," Gaucci said. "Above all I believe in him as a person and in his ability as a player."

Comically, Saadi suggested that Serie A wouldn't be such a huge step up for him as it was not as tough as the Libyan league. "In Africa, we play some games that are maybe even tougher than the ones in Italy," he told reporters. He was soon brought down to earth. Despite his brashness, Saadi made just one first team appearance for Perugia, against Reggina on October 5th that year. Given a random drugs test after the game he was found to have an excessive amount of the performance-enhancing steroid nandrolone in his system and was banned from Serie A for two years.

Saadi wasn't beaten, however, and in 2005 he decided to try his luck elsewhere joining Udinese, once more amid rumours of bribery and publicity seeking on the part of the club. Again, his talents were under appreciated. He played just ten minutes in an end-of-season league match against Cagliari. The following season he popped up at Sampdoria, but was again disappointed, failing to play in a single match.

This time, it seems, Saadi finally got the message and he officially retired from the game in 2007. He returned to Libya where he remained a member of his father's inner-circle, taking a particular interest in the state-owned oil company Tamoil.

He left a string of unpaid bills back in Italy, and in July 2010, was ordered by an Italian court to pay 392,000 Euros in unpaid bills after a month long stay at a luxurious Ligurian hotel in 2007.

When his father's regime began to disintegrate in 2011, Saadi's true colours emerged. The BBC reported that Saadi had personally ordered troops to shoot on unarmed protestors in Benghazi at the beginning of the Libyan uprising. As the true nature of his father's brutal, 42 year reign in Libya begins to emerge, more shocking revelations about his failed footballing son seem certain to come to light.

2011-08-25 05:34:58
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