What he said:
“Let’s go back 15 years and all I saw then has come true. Everybody who was trash-talking me? Now they are eating their words. This is my real trophy.”
Swedish striker and captain of the national side, Zlatan Ibrahimović, lets loose a fusillade of criticism at his many critics while blowing out the candles on his birthday cake.
“So how did this punk from Rosengard get all the way to where I am now? Nobody believed I could do it. Everybody was trash‑talking. They thought I will go away because I have a big mouth. They thought this guy’s vision is crazy. It will not happen. But I had these dreams of where I would end up. And now here I am.”
On criticism driving him forward:
“Yeah, yeah. That’s my hunger. If I start to relax and I lose that then I had better stop my football. I need that hunger. I still feel I need to do things 10 times better than other players. Just to be accepted and to improve myself.”
On a documentary ‘From Rosengard With More Than One Goal‘ charting his meteoric rise from oblivion:
“It was emotional and the documentary took six months. I’m used to having a camera in my face but not a camera following me. When I did the book [the layered, cocky, poignant and very funny I Am Zlatan Ibrahimovic] one guy followed me. This time it’s a camera crew. But I did it because I want to show everyone how my life is different from the inside and how I went all the way from Rosengard to the national team record. It’s also personal. You get to know my father.”
On being different:
“If you are different, or you have minimum possibilities, you can still succeed. I am living proof of that. I didn’t have that ‘wow’ life. I was not a ‘wow’ person. Those around me were not ‘wow’ people. I didn’t live in a ‘wow’ area. So my message to those who feel different, or unlucky, is that if you believe in yourself you will also make it. There is always a possibility. Everything depends on you.”
On the four goals he scored against England in November 2012:
“If you don’t score against the English teams you are not good enough. It’s always been like that. Whenever I played against the English I didn’t score. So they said I am not good enough. Next game, same thing. Oh, see, he’s not good enough. But this triggers me. This gives me adrenalin. People think they might break me but I am the opposite. I get more anger to demonstrate who I am.
I take risks in the way I play so sometimes it doesn’t look ‘wow’. But then came England. They were saying the same thing about me but I just said it will be fantastic – the first match in our new stadium. The first goal came and I was happy. When the second came I was crazy. And when the third went in I looked around. ‘OK, what will you say now?’ With the fourth, the bicycle kick, I thought: ‘That’s it. I don’t know what more I can do.’ Even if you live in England I have to say it gave me an extra-special feeling.”
On fatherhood and discipline:
“They would be totally punished (if they stole a bike, like he did when he was a kid). Yes, I did it but I was not controlled. We were on our own but it’s not the right way to act.
For me, now, discipline and respect is everything. Once they are 18 my boys can do what they want. But until then they are under my roof and it’s my rules. I want to be their father even as they begin to understand who Ibrahimovic is. You know? Zlatan. It’s not a picture I want them to have of me. Even when they joke and call me Zlatan I don’t like it. They must call me Pappa. For me that’s very sensible.
I don’t want them to see their father like my supporters see me. Wherever I go people recognise me. They want a picture of me. But at home I want to be Pappa. I don’t want to be Zlatan. When I go out I represent my club and myself, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but at home I’m 100% a family person.”
What he really meant:
“I’m 33. I’m a footballing legend. It’s been a journey, a wonderful one. My critics? They can eat their hats while I feast on my birthday cake.”
What he definitely didn’t:
“I have a thick skin. ‘Stoicism‘ is my middle name.”