Zlatan Ibrahimović – a sports icon and a Swedish symbol

Last week, Swedish football star Zlatan Ibrahimović returned to his home town of Malmö in southern Sweden for an official UEFA Champions League game with his Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) side against Malmö FF.

It was an emotional time for the football fans in Malmö and Sweden. Zlatan grew up in Rosengård, a Malmö suburb, as the child of two Eastern European migrants. After a tough childhood dealing with social integration and poverty, he fulfilled his dream to play professional football by joining local team Malmö FF in 1999-2000. This is why his success is regarded as a fairy tale for many Swedes with similar backgrounds.

Following Malmö FF, Zlatan has continued his career at Ajax (2001-2004), Juventus (2004-2006), Inter (2006-2009), FC Barcelona (2009-2011), AC Milan (2011-2012) and Paris Saint-Germain (2012- ). Since joining Ajax in the Netherlands, he has won the domestic league title with every team he has played for, having picked up a trophy in almost every year of his career.

Many people love Zlatan, others don’t. But over the years, he has emerged as the leader of the Swedish national team and could be regarded as the greatest-ever Swedish player, having been named Swedish Footballer of the Year 10 times (2005, 2007-2015). We can go even further and say he is one of the best Swedish athletes in history, winning the Swedish Male Athlete of the Year award four times (2008, 2010, 2013, 2015). Furthermore, Zlatan has so far played for the Swedish national team 111 times, scoring 62 goals, making him his country’s all-time top scorer and he has represented Sweden both in World Cup and European Championship tournaments.

Returning to what happened last week, Zlatan went back to Malmö for the first time as an opponent in a competitive game. After finding out he was going to play against his boyhood team, he delivered various messages on social media to his Swedish fans, encouraging them to come and see him. For the occasion, he rented the town’s main square from the local government in order for the game to be shown live on a giant screen, so the whole community could watch it.

This is not the first time he has shown his love for his hometown. In 2007, he built Zlatan Court, a football field in the neighbourhood where he used to play as a child. At the entrance, a sign reads: Here is my heart. Here is my history. Here is my play. Take it further. Zlatan.

PSG won the game against Malmö, but it was a memorable night nevertheless. Zlatan Ibrahimović is also renowned for his strong personality and controversial statements, but no one can deny that he is a fantastic athlete and one of the Sweden’s best-known personalities. You can take a closer look at Zlatan’s eventful life by reading his biography, which is an international best-seller.

Photo source: BBC.com