Tag Archives: ethnic minorities
Zlatan Ibrahimovic – that remarkable Swedish footballer of ex-Yugoslav extraction – is a personality that tends to engender profound polarisation, but it is impossible to deny that he is one of most consistently successful players in the history of the game: AC Milan’s securing of the 2010-11 Serie A title on 7th May 2011 meant that ‘Ibra’ – whose registration is ultimately owned by FC Barcelona, which loaned him to Milan for the season presently concluding – has been awarded a league winner’s medal in nine of the last ten seasons. Indeed, so successful has he been that Ibrahimovic’s relative failures – the 2009-10 season with Barcelona is often cited in this context, a campaign in which the Catalans topped La Liga, beat Atletic Bilbao 4-1 in the final of the Copa Del Rey and were within a wrongly-disallowed goal of a successive Champions League Final – would be classed as tremendous attainments in almost any other framework.
But what makes Ibrahimovic a footballer of almost unparalleled accomplishment? While he has enjoyed the privilege of being in some fine teams – the ever-competitive Ajax Amsterdam (league winners in 2002 and 2004), pre-Calciopoli Juventus (2005 and 2006), a dominant Internazionale (2007, 2008 and 2009) and a sport-redefining Barca (2010) – a record of this regularity cannot be explained away with reference to fortuitous circumstances; the psychology of Ibrahimovic is at play:
1. The Minority Work Ethic. It is by now well-known that Ibrahimovic spent his formative years amidst the high-modernist concrete of Rosengård, Malmo, but this relative adversity can destroy as well as motivate; Aftonbladet columnist Jennifer Wegerup instead points to the young Ibrahimovic’s experiences as an ethnic minority who believes – correctly or otherwise – that he has to work twice as hard as others to achieve the same result.
2. Instability. In his early years, Ibrahimovic was not blessed with a stable domestic life; the ensuing frustration and sadness expressed itself not just in a school career marked by emotional violence but in an obsessional devotion to the beautiful game, with the juvenile Ibrahimovic expending countless hours honing his skills in the playgrounds and streets of Malmo.
3. Unique talent. The Swede’s interpretation of football – flamboyant, adventurous, ingenious and maddening – is the product of a quite unique talent; the kind of player that can juggle chewing gum, Ibrahimovic’s self-confidence stems from the fact that virtually no one in the modern game is capable of scoring or making goals in the way that he can. That belief spills over into his teammates and makes for steely, winning performances.