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Selling Lemonade, Playing Footie: What World Leaders Did Before Becoming Heads Of State

ET Bureau|
Career Path To Run A Nation
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Career Path To Run A Nation

Everyone must start somewhere, even the seemingly powerful. Here are a few world leaders who did humdrum jobs before taking on the mantle of head of state. (On the left is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, and on the right is George Weah.)

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan
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Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Born on the outskirts of Istanbul, Turkish President Erdogan sold lemonade and sesame buns on the streets in his teenage years to supplement his family’s income. After graduating from high school, he enrolled at the Aksaray School of Economics for a degree in business administration. There, he started to play football and even drew the attention of the country’s biggest football club, Fenerbahçe, who were keen to draft him. However, he was dissuaded by his father.

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Volodymyr Zelensky
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Volodymyr Zelensky

On April 22, 2019, Ukrainians voted as their President a comedian, who, until then, starred in a television drama, Servant of the People, where his character accidentally became the nation’s president. Since his victory, Zelensky has vowed to channel his on-screen persona by rooting out corruption and reducing the undue influence oligarchs exert on policy matters.

Agencies
​George Weah
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​George Weah

The incumbent President of Liberia has the distinction of being the only African footballer to win the Ballon d’Or. In a career spanning two decades, Weah enjoyed stints at European giants like AC Milan and Paris Saint Germain. Following his retirement, Weah ran for President in 2005 but was unable to translate his popularity into electoral gains. He was elected President in 2018. In the interim, he acquired a degree from DeVry University in Miami, and participated in relief work when the West African nation was overcome by the Ebola epidemic in 2014.

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​Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov
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​Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov

Berdymukhamedov, who served as President of Turkmenistan between 2001 and 2007, has no background in politics. He graduated from the Turkmen State Medical Institute in 1979 with a specialisation in dentistry. Coincidentally, he served as the personal dentists of his predecessor, Saparmurat Niyazov. Berdymukhamedov was rewarded with a plum posting as the Minister of Health in 1997. Following his mentor’s demise, Berdymukhamedov was elected president despite his candidature being flagged by the prosecutor general on charges of criminality.

Agencies
​Silvio Berlusconi
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​Silvio Berlusconi

The former Italian prime minister developed a love of sailing in his early days. Berlusconi was a popular singer on cruise ships that navigated the Mediterranean coast. Following his political success, Berlusconi took over AC Milan. However, a weakness for sailing proved to be his undoing. Berlusconi’s fall from grace was complete when he was caught in a compromising position with an underage woman at one of his lavish seaside parties. He managed to overturn his conviction but was alienated by political allies.

(Text by Rohan Abraham)

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Copyright © 2019 Bennett, Coleman & Co. Ltd. All rights reserved. For reprint rights: Times Syndication Service