This book is a superior sports autobiography. Zlatan’s ghost writer is an author in his own right, and translator is excellent. They capture the intensity of his life and the voice of an immigrant living in poverty. As a sports autobiography great sporting moments need to be buzzing with immediacy reflecting what the reader may have seen, or can see on YouTube. To get inside the brain of a great athlete is a wonderful thing even when he resorts to concepts like ‘intuition’. (Intuition is an untranslatable act of genius.) YouTube almost exists for readers to refer back to Zlatan’s moments of glory in Italy.
This is the first reason you should read this book. As we’ve seen with the racism accusations at Yorkshire cricket club even exceptional immigrant children can be barred from access to early opportunities. And so it was for Zlatan in Malmo.
“Our team was down 4–0 against a bunch of snobs from Vellinge; it was the brown kids versus the posh kids, and there was loads of aggression in the air. I was so mad I was about to explode. How could that idiot put me on the bench?
‘Are you stupid? I asked the coach.
‘Calm down. You’ll come on soon.’
I came on in the second half and scored eight goals. We won 8–5 and taunted the rich kids, and sure, I was good. I was technical and could see chances all the time.” p31
Zlatan lived in a very rough neighbourhood where you had to stand your ground. This didn’t go down well when it translated into violence
“Some idiot father of somebody in the team went round with a petition. Zlatan must leave the club, it said, and all kinds of people signed that thing. They smuggled it round, saying, Zlatan doesn’t belong here. He’s got to be chucked out. Sign here, blah blah blah.’
It was mental. Okay, I’d been in a fight with that dad’s son. I’d taken a load of nasty tackles, and I went off on one. I’d headbutted him, if I’m honest. I was filled with regret afterwards. I cycled over to the hospital and begged for forgiveness. It was a stupid thing to do, really, but a petition! Give me a break.” p34