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Saturday, 7 June 2014
Lad Lit Book Reviews: I Am Zlatan Ibrahimović
This is much more than a football autobiography. Of course it charts his incredible footballing journey from Swedish outfit Malmö to the dizzy heights of European giants Ajax, Juventus, Inter, Barcelona, AC Milan and Paris St Germain, but the heart of this story is that of a poor child of immigrant parents.
Growing up on the tough streets of Rosengard, Zlatan paints a fairly bleak childhood in terms of poverty, where stealing bikes was seen as nothing more than an everyday pastime and imitating a police officer with a shampoo bottle to pull someone over (yes, he actually did this!) was merely just a bit of fun. Caught in between a bitter divorce between his Bosnian Muslim father and his Croatian Catholic mother, it was Zlatan’s talent as a football player that shone through and would act as he escape mechanism to a world that was totally out of reach for people on the estate in which he lived.
While other youngsters played football to the strict no-nonsense Swedish approach, Zlatan was more concerned with imitating his Brazilian heroes who’s videos he would study to perfect their wonderfully crafted samba skills. Even when parents at the local football club where Zlatan played started a petition to rid Zlatan and his selfish exploits on the football pitch, he was undeterred in his approach to the beautiful game.
It is a stubbornness and confrontational attitude that would serve Zlatan well throughout his career, if not making the odd enemy along the way. In the very first chapter of the book Zlatan accuses legendary Barcelona coach Pep Guardiola of being a ‘creepy control freak’ and later on as a man who was afraid of Jose Mourinho with ‘no balls’. That pretty much sets the tone for the rest of the book that pulls no punches.
Sandwiched in the middle of all of this are those wonderfully classic Zlatan moments of magic, mayhem and mastery on and off the football field. When a young Zlatan was informed that Southampton was interested in acquiring his services he bluntly responded with: “What the fuck! Southampton! Is that my level?” Or his poetic comparison of playing for two of the modern games greatest managers: “If Mourinho lights up a room, Guardiola draws the curtains.” And of course the modest Zlatan quotes that range from “We won the UEFA Supercup, I was awesome” to “An injured Zlatan is a properly serious thing for any team.”
But just like that other sporting great Muhammad Ali, who set the standard for could talking the talk and walking the walk, Zlatan backs up all of his bravado by delivering the goods. After all, here is a man who has won league titles at every club he has played at, including an eight-year winning streak that took in championships in Holland, Spain and Italy. So when this man tells you that “What John Carew does with a football, I can do with an orange” you tend to listen.
It is fair to say that I Am Zlatan Ibrahimović will whet the appetite of every football fan as it not only details a great story of an underdog rising to the very top, but it intrigues with tales and insight of some of the game’s greatest names. Added to the mix his youth and background makes for one of the best – if not the best – football biography I’ve ever read.
If I was asked to sum this autobiography up in one word, I’d literally take a leaf out of Zlatan’s book and call it awesome.