"To Zlatanate Is To Dominate" - Soccer Superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic Speaks

Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the Euro 2012 match against Ukraine
Zlatan Ibrahimovic at the Euro 2012 match against Ukraine
Rémi Dupré et Bruno Lesprit

PARIS – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the famed Swedish superstar striker of the Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) soccer team has just released his autobiography, entitled “I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic.” He spoke with Le Monde.

LE MONDE: This book sold 700,000 copies in Sweden. Did you expect it to be such a hit?
ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC: That is more than 7% of the Swedish population! I didn’t expect that. But it didn’t matter to me – I’m happier about a couple of people liking my book than I am with selling 700,000 copies.

Is Zlatan Ibrahimovic a fictional character?
No, no. I stay true to myself. I have been Zlatan since the first day and I will be until the last, I will never change. Not everyone can become Zlatan or a professional soccer player but everyone must believe in what he wants to be: journalist, hockey player or writer. Even from where I come from, it is possible to make something of yourself. It’s not really part of the Swedish mentality, though – becoming someone incredible, someone famous isn’t very important in Sweden.

You talk a lot about your childhood in Rosengard , in the city of Malmö. Is this neighborhood still with you?
You can take me out of Rosengard but you will never take Rosengard out of me. People say it’s a bad neighborhood, but not me. I had it all: friends, activities, football, and my mother’s apartment. When I was playing outside, she would call me in for lunch. My father’s apartment was on the other side of the highway. When I was 17 years old, I discovered a new world by moving to downtown Malmö. I loved living in the suburbs, but living in town was even better. It’s easier to go from the ghetto to the city than the other way around.

In this book, you make a distinction between Swedes and “foreigners,” which is how you consider yourself. Have you ever felt completely Swedish?
I’ve always considered myself as a Swede. I used the word “ghetto” even though it’s not really a ghetto, but let’s call it like that anyway. We were all perceived as foreigners. There were the Africans, the Yugoslavs, the Turks, the Brazilians, etc. We were all different but as a group, we spoke the same language – Swedish. I spoke Yugoslavian with my family.

In Malmö, you could feel the difference between the Swedes and the foreigners who played soccer. To be able to play in the first team, because my name wasn’t Andersson or Svansson, I had to stand out and be ten times better. My name is Ibrahimovic. I’m not the average Swede. I had to work harder because of that. Before me there was Martin Dahlin – the first black man to play in the Swedish national team – but his name sounds more Swedish than mine. That makes a big difference!

Do you see yourself as the best Swedish ambassador in France?
If I have to pay attention and think twice about what I say, it would sound wrong and it wouldn’t be me. I want to serve Sweden best by staying true to myself. It’s going quite well. Very well actually. Now, people know there are Swedes called Ibrahimovic, not just Anderssons.

To “zlatanate” zlataner is now a verb in French. What’s your definition of this verb?
I heard about this verb. It’s already in the Swedish dictionary. I think “to zlatanate” means “to dominate.” In a positive way, I hope. It means doing something acrobatic, something different, something impossible. It can have many synonyms.

You have scored many acrobatic goals. Does taekwondo help?
This question has followed me through my whole career. Does taekwondo make soccer easier for me? Maybe. I practiced many martial arts when I was young. My father would let me watch Bruce Lee, Jackie Chan and Mohamed Ali. I grew up in this universe and I love delivering high kicks. You have to be careful in soccer, though. I got a penalty card because my foot was too high against the goalkeeper. But that’s my game style.

What are your objectives with Paris Saint-Germain?
I’m in Paris because everything here is fun. Something new can happen every day. The objectives are ambitious. It’s a new adventure for me. I hope that when I leave France, I will have accomplished what I accomplished everywhere else – winning and bringing home the trophies.

The only one you don’t have is the Champions League trophy. Can the PSG win it this year?
Everything is possible in soccer. We believe in a victory. Our team is new and solid team. Everything’s not perfect of course, but neither was Barcelona, the best team in the world, when I was there. We’re going to play against Valencia in the Champions League to qualify for quarterfinals. We are the first in the French championship, and aiming for the Coupe de France trophy. We’re on our way there. I’m 31 years old and I have lots of experience. I know patience is a virtue in soccer. Practice makes perfect. The pressure is very high – the club hasn’t won a title in 18 years. We have to win.

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Migrant Lives

The Other Scandal At The Polish-Belarusian Border: Where's The UN?

The United Nations, UNICEF, Red Cross and other international humanitarian organizations seems to be trying to reach the Polish-Belarusian border, where Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko is creating a refugee crisis on purpose.

Migrants in Michalowo, Belarus, next to the border with Poland.

Wojciech Czuchnowski

WARSAW — There is no doubt that the refugees crossing the Belarusian border with Poland — and by extension reaching the European Union — were shepherded through by the regime of Alexander Lukashenko. There is more than enough evidence that this is an organized action of the dictator using a network of intermediaries stretching from Africa and the Middle East. But that is not all.

The Belarusian regime has made no secret that its services are guiding refugees to the Polish border, literally pushing them onto (and often, through) the wires.

It can be seen in films made available to the media by... Belarusian border guards and Lukashenko's official information agencies.

Tactics of a strongman

Refugees are not led to the border by "pretend soldiers" in uniforms from a military collectibles store. These are regular formations commanded by state authorities. Their actions violate all rules of peaceful coexistence and humanitarianism to which Belarus has committed itself as a state.

Belarus is dismissed by the "rest of the world" as a hopeless case of a bizarre (although, in the last year, increasingly brutal) dictatorship. But it still formally belongs to a whole range of organizations whose principles it violates every day on the border with Poland.

Indeed, Belarus is a part of the United Nations (it is even listed as a founding state in its declaration), it belongs to the UNICEF, to the International Committee of the Red Cross, and even to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Photo of Polish soldiers setting up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Polish soldiers set up a barbed wire fence in the Border Zone near Krynki, Belarus

Maciej Luczniewski/ZUMA

Lukashenko would never challenge the Red Cross

Each of these entities has specialized bureaus whose task is to intervene wherever conventions and human rights are violated. Each of these organizations should have sent their observers and representatives to the conflict area long ago — and without asking Belarus for permission. They should be operating on both sides of the border, as their presence would certainly make it more difficult to break the law.

An incomprehensible absence

Neither the leader of Poland's ruling party Jaroslaw Kaczyński nor even Lukashenko would dare to keep the UN, UNICEF, OSCE or the Red Cross out of their countries.

In recent weeks, the services of one UN state (Belarus) have been regularly violating the border of another UN state (Poland). In the nearby forests, children are being pushed around and people are dying. Despite all of this, none of the international organizations seems to be trying to reach the border nor taking any kind of action required by their responsibilities.

Their absence in such a critical time and place is completely incomprehensible, and their lack of action raises questions about the use of international treaties and organizations created to protect them.

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