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