Ukrainian footballer Andriy Shevchenko has announced that he is leaving football for politics.
The 35-year-old striker will join the pro-business Ukraine Forward! party in his native country.
Its leader Nataliya Korolevska has broken away from the opposition grouping of jailed ex-prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
The party is hoping to win its first seats in
October’s parliamentary election.
Shevchenko claimed Ukraine Forward! “would offer a new choice between the past and the future.” Speaking at a school in the town of Volodarka, he said he believed it had a good chance of succeeding against the current establishment.
He enters the fray at a time of deep divisions between Ukraine’s political leaders. Tymoshenko, a former prime minister, is currently serving a seven year sentence for abuse of power. The West claims the charges against her were politically motivated after years of bitter rivalry with current president Viktor Yanukovich.
A hugely popular figure in Ukraine, Shevchenko’s decision is a major coup for the new party.
The former AC Milan and Chelsea forward ended his international career when Ukraine failed to progress from the group stage of Euro 2012 in June.