“Okay okay now its our turn, you and you will score from this end and we will score from that end,” commandeered the little girl in a hijab to the other boys and girls at the football pitch. Football, one of the most meritocratic sports in the whole world, where abilities come through hard work and the most able able influential and listened to.
Football, one of the few sports capable of stopping a war.
Football, one of the global sports that provides a way out of poverty to join the 1%.
This is one of those stories of the power of football.
Going to Malmö and not seeing Rosengård is like going to Paris and not seeing the Eiffel Tower said a French international footballer Mamadou Sakho.
While Rosengård tends to be cast in a bad light, there are stories that shine with such brilliance, that they give you hope. And in Rosengård there is no personal story bigger than that of Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
Born in Rosengård to refugee parents (who fled Yugoslavia), Zlatan is an ethnic Bosnian-Swede footballer, born of the marriage between a Bosnian caretaker and a Croatian cleaner and the long time tallisman of the Swedish National Football Team. If he had followed the unstated rules that life had called him to follow, he would have been only slightly more successful than his parents, but he did not follow the script.
This is the story of a man who the had talent and the cockiness to match his real life performances earning him game time with some of the largest and richest and most influential football clubs in the world – FC Barcelona, Intermilan, AC Milan, Juventus, Paris Saint Germain, Ajax Amsterdam and Manchester United. Climbing out from a gloomy backdrop in Rosengård to becoming one of the richest footballers in the world. Ibrahimovic is clearly not an ethnically Swedish name like Ericsson or Svensson but than again Zlatan is not your stereotypical Swede. But more than his footballing skills is his larger than life personality, gutsy, confident overflowing into arrogant, macho (in a society that perhaps is the exact opposite). It is all the more stark especially when juxtaposed against the lagom and retiring disposition of most Swedes – hilariously portrayed in this Eurovision video.
But had to be different to escape a bad situation and become one of the most outstanding footballers in the world, and the greatest Sweden has ever known. His attitude had made him a character of such stature that it is impossible to be neutral about him, he is either loved or despised by those who know about him.
Zlatan’s presence in the national team over the last decade masked the fact that the Swedish football has seen much better brighter days, a phenomenal performance by him ensured that Sweden’s debut in the Friends Arena to England ended with an impressive 4-2 win.
Some have alleged however that Zlatan’s out of this world personality is also the cause for the rest of the team wilting with his presence (a fact supported by Sweden’s impressive quarter-finals run in the 2018 World Cup.
Still, it’s doubtles that Zlatan is a footballing star. And it all began here, in Rosengård, at Zlatan Court. This football cage that was completed in 2007, financed by Nike and inaugurated by Zlatan, it was here where a young Ibrahimovic grew up and played football before he was picked up by his local club Malmö FF.
And to his credit Ibrahimovic has never forgotten his roots. At the entrance to Rosengård is a statement from Zlatan, “Man kan ta en kille från Rosengård, men man kan inte ta Rosengård från kille” – you can take the man out of Rosengård but you cannot take Rosengård out of the men.
And then at the entrance to the football cage is another plaque, one not about himself, but to extol the children of Rosengård to make something of their lives: Här finns mitt hjärta. Här finns min historia. Här finns mitt spel. Ta det vidare. – Here is my heart. Here is my history. Here is my game. Take it further.
His success if a force for good, a force for success and a powerful example for the young people born into situations with their conditions against their success. The Zlatan story has reached a new inflexion point with his recent move to Los Angeles – blurring the line between footballer and celebrity. He set Los Angeles alight with a dream debut. Turning a losing match into a victory and subsequently getting invited to the biggest talk shows in the country.
‘King Zlatan’ will probably retire in a few years, but you can bet his retirement will not be the last you hear of him. A little of Rosengård has begun to live the dream, may more from Rosengård be able to live that dream.
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