Zla­tan be­neath the fa­cade

Havelock North Village Press - - News - Adam Pearse

There are clear emo­tional un­der­tones de­scrib­ing Zla­tan’s strug­gle be­ing an im­mi­grant and his lack of ac­cep­tance in the na­tional team.

As­ports bi­og­ra­phy or au­to­bi­og­ra­phy usu­ally tells you some­thing more about a mem­ber of a par­tic­u­lar sport. It gives those from a nor­mal life an in­sight, a glim­mer of hope that we may un­der­stand the kind of life they lead and the per­son they are, un­der­neath the fame and pres­tige. Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic´ ’s

I Am Foot­ball writ­ten by the man him­self, along with Mats Ols­son, is some­thing of a con­tra­dic­tion to this the­ory, while also ful­fill­ing it in a way most peo­ple wouldn’t have ex­pected.

Most peo­ple will recog­nise the name Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic´ even if they are not a strong foot­ball fan. His out­landish com­ments and con­tro­ver­sial mo­ments have tran­scended the sports world and at­tracted the eyes of the rest of the world. This book con­firms much of what the world knew about Zla­tan: he is a strong, ar­ro­gant, self-lov­ing, tal­ented foot­baller who plays the game in the same way he lives his life, in a dom­i­neer­ing fash­ion.

This Zla­tan is not a sur­prise to this reader and nor should it be to any­one who has heard any­thing come from his mouth. The con­stant ref­er­enc­ing of him­self in the third per­son and the reg­u­lar com­par­isons to a god are enough to leave a last­ing im­pres­sion.

De­spite this be­ing a stronger theme than Agassi and his ha­tred for ten­nis, as you progress through Zla­tan’s life, an­other theme can be seen. Nearly all play­ers, coaches and friends who gave their opin­ion of Swe­den’s great­est player stressed that Zla­tan was a dif­fer­ent per­son than what was seen in the me­dia and on the pitch. He was a car­ing and em­pa­thetic in­di­vid­ual, loyal to those who were loyal in re­turn. He had a great love for the game which had been his life.

Most play­ers talk about how peo­ple don’t know the real Zla­tan and therein lies the value of this book. This shows us a player who was bashed by the me­dia, con­fused by play­ers and coaches who didn’t see things his way, and heart­bro­ken by the things he will never achieve, namely a Cham­pi­ons League ti­tle. Zla­tan’s de­vel­op­ment is not a strong idea that the reader is com­mu­ni­cated. In­stead, we are given clear stages in his life which told of the im­pact Zla­tan had on a player, club, coach or coun­try and was de­scribed in great de­tail. This is in­dica­tive of how his mind works where he al­ways saw him­self as a great foot­baller, and it was him who would mold and change clubs rather than the other way around.

Con­struct­ing the book in these clear phases gives the reader a good idea as to how suc­cess­ful Zla­tan was. He did suc­ceed at ev­ery club he went to and with a full ca­reer run­down of his sta­tis­tics, it is not hard to un­der­stand that Zla­tan wanted to con­vey just how suc­cess­ful he was and is.

Nev­er­the­less, this really is a love let­ter to foot­ball. There are clear emo­tional un­der­tones de­scrib­ing Zla­tan’s strug­gle be­ing an im­mi­grant to Swe­den and his lack of ac­cep­tance in the na­tional team. A lot of the me­dia at­ten­tion is owed to this as he is reg­u­larly re­ferred to as an ‘easy tar­get’ with a ‘big nose’.

The book en­cap­su­lates what most of us know about him. But it shows the strug­gle of some­one who doesn’t have great per­sonal skills, com­bined with an al­ways-win, never-lose men­tal­ity, and their in­ter­ac­tions with the rest of the world. In a way, it is sim­i­lar to a god in­ter­act­ing with mere mor­tals and while some of his goals may have in­di­cated some form of om­nipo­tence, other as­pects of his per­son­al­ity and de­meanour bring him back down to earth.

While Zla­tan may have been a player who was hard to un­der­stand, this book clearly com­mu­ni­cates that one of the great­est foot­ballers of a gen­er­a­tion was not only a win­ner who would ac­cept noth­ing less, but a per­son who strug­gled through bar­ri­ers to achieve a near im­mor­tal sta­tus in the beau­ti­ful game.

Photo / AP

I Am Foot­ball by Mats Ols­son, Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic´ Pen­guin, $60 LA Galaxy for­ward Zla­tan Ibrahi­movic cel­e­brates a goal.

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