Eric Cantona
Eric Cantona in Cannes, France Reuters

French footballer Eric Cantona said on Tuesday that he had launched a bid to join the 2012 presidential race and compete against incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy -- a supporter of the Paris Saint-Germain Football Club -- and Socialist candidate Francois Hollande.

The man already known as King Eric from his days playing at Old Trafford told French daily Liberation that he was collecting the required 500 mayoral signatures needed to run in April.

Cantona has already used the national attention of his candidacy to highlight the issue of fair housing. He has positioned himself as an outspoken participant in the debate on France's housing crisis, and the soccer player-cum-actor-cum-housing activist has criticized local politicians for not building public housing in their districts.

I'm a committed citizen, Cantona wrote in his letter to local mayors. This engagement obliges me to speak up, more seriously than usual, but also with a keen sense of my responsibility, at a time when our country is faced with difficult choices.

While he does seem serious about the housing issue, his presidential bid was revealed as a stunt to raise awareness rather than a serious attempt to take office. He voiced his support for the Fondation Abbe Pierre, an organization that is working on lodging for the poor, and he wants France's next president to do the same.

He isn't looking for signatures to be a candidate for the presidency, but to pass on the message of the Abbé Pierre foundation in support of better housing policy, and to make housing, which is a priority for French people, a priority for the presidential candidates, Libération Deputy Editor Paul Quinio said on French television Tuesday.

Still, Cantona hasn't yet disavowed the news that he'll run. Is he really that unqualified?

Cantona does have plenty of public speaking experience. He is scheduled to give a talk about life after sport at the Global Sports Forum 2012 in Barcelona, Spain this March.

He also has foreign policy expertise. While most of his career was spent in France's Ligue 1, his most successful run came during his five years at Manchester United in England's Premier League. Additionally, he has 45 international caps playing for the French national team (scoring a considerable 20 times during that time) although he never played in a World Cup. (He did coach one -- Cantona led France to a bronze medal at the 2006 FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup.)

A number of American presidents were distinguished college athletes, but few professionals have risen high in the U.S. political realm. The most notable are Jesse the Body Ventura and Arnold Schwarzenegger, both of whom turned muscles into votes and became governors. Additionally, NBA star Chris Dudley ran for governor of Oregon while Kevin Johnson won the Sacramento mayoral election.

But soccer stars hold a special place in countries other than the United States. Diego Maradona can do no wrong in Argentina, and 1995 FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah ran for president of his home nation of Liberia, but lost to Ellen Johnson Sirleaf in the second round of voting.