Zlatan Ibrahimovic comes from one of Sweden’s most notorious problem areas. Nevertheless, the exceptional kicker made it into the largest football arenas in Europe.
Malmo – It’s not often that a movie theater opens with loud applause – but when the life of the city’s most famous son is brought to the screen, even the reserved Swedes come out of their shells.
When an announcer prepares the hall in a cinema in Malmö for “I Am Zlatan”, spontaneous cheers break out even before the first scene can be seen. That was before Easter. On May 19, the film about the young years of soccer star Zlatan Ibrahimovic, which was postponed several times due to the pandemic, will now be released in German cinemas. Will he be accepted there so benevolently?
“Story of a Living Legend”
Now the silver screen tends to make big stars that little bit bigger, especially when they’ve worked their way up from the bottom. “I Am Zlatan” is also heroically promoted as “the true story of a living legend” – but like the young viewers in the Malmö cinema, many other football fans will surely be drawn in by the film. The life story on which the plot is based is simply too good.
Ibrahimovic grew up in Malmö’s problem district of Rosengård, which is also where the film starts. Between ocher prefabricated buildings, the young Zlatan kicks his neighborhood into the ground before he finds his way into organized football. His defiant ego helps him, but also gets in his way time and time again.
“Shall we talk or play?” the impatient boy asks his coach. The then eleven-year-old kicker is embodied by the grandiose Dominic Andersson Bajraktari, and in later years as a teenager no less credibly by Granit Rushiti.
Ibrahimovic repeatedly struggles with his temperament and then with classmates and teammates. As the film describes, he undoubtedly inherited his defiance from father Sefik (Cedomir Glisovic), who also likes to carry home his son’s mattress from Ikea because the delivery costs are too high for him.
Early genius with problems
The young kicker in “I Am Zlatan” mainly wrestles with himself. He explains to a youth coach that he wants to become the best footballer in the world, so that in the next breath while jogging with the team he will quickly slam the bus instead of his own two legs take. Ibrahimovic is an early genius – but one who is threatened by family problems and problems related to puberty.
Ultimately, the film also shows how fine the line is between slipping into crime and great fame. Ibrahimovic’ recently deceased advisor Mino Raiola also plays an important role.
In any case, the described ego of earlier days has accompanied Ibrahimovic to this day, while he has long since made it to the top of the football world. The forward has played in four of football’s five major leagues for some of the biggest clubs in the world, only missing out on the Bundesliga in that regard.
He attracted attention with spectacular goals in kung fu style, but at the same time with self-confident and often arrogant sayings. The self-related title “I Am Zlatan” (Original: Jag är Zlatan), which David Lagercrantz’ Ibrahimovic biography from 2011 also bore, is therefore no coincidence.
Even at the age of 40, “Ibra” is still on the pitch for AC Milan. “I Am Zlatan” describes his path from Rosengård to Amsterdam, where ultimately a single exceptional goal makes a decisive difference: that between a million-dollar contract with a top club and resounding failure.
I Am Zlatan, Sweden / Denmark / ua 2022, 102 Minutes, FSK from 12, by Jens Sjögren, with Granit Rushiti, Dominic Andersson Bajraktari, Cedomir Glisovic, Merima Dizdarević dpa