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Zlatan steals the headlines as Sweden march on

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18:06 CEST+02:00
Last Saturday saw Sweden trounce Hungary 3-0 in a World Cup 2006 qualifying match but the week's papers were more interested in the relationship between the media and Zlatan Ibrahimovic - who didn't even play.

On Monday Expressen's columnist Tony Ernst slammed the the dailies' sports editors for their treatment of Sweden's most controversial football star Zlatan Ibrahimovic.

"Worst of all is SvD's Jan Majlard," declared Ernst, naming names, "a man who's made it his life work to follow Zlatan."

It was Jan Majlard who recently walked out of a press conference for the national team in protest at Zlatan's refusal to answer a question about his club team, Juventus.

Questioning the integrity of Majlard's approach, Ernst rejected his fellow journalist's comparison of Zlatan with former world champion boxer, Mike Tyson.

What's more, Ernst wondered why Zlatan is referred to as "arrogant" and yobbish whilst fellow Swedish football diva Freddie Ljungberg is described as "explosive" and "self-sacrificing".

Amidst the flaying handbags at twelve paces, Metro's Alexandra Pascalidou weighed in.

"I love Zlatan," Pascalidou confessed, and gushed "I'm proud as a Swede of his success."

Pascalidou claims "Zlatan could be the next Van Basten" (legendary Dutch striker, famous for scoring a spectacular goal in the 1992 European Championships held in Sweden) whilst Sweden's football journalists "dreamt of playing in the Champions' League...but their passing and goals in the kids' league only got them a place working as an editor for some crummy tabloid."

Making good sense, Pascalidou complained "the media mafia [in Sweden] decide what's what" in this country.

She was also worried about the rather unnerving fixation many journalists seem to have with Zlatan's background and status as a Swede. Indeed, Pascalidou took Majlard to task (although admittedly without naming him) declaring he was wrong to storm out of a press conference just because Zlatan refused to answer a question about his club when the whole point of the press conference was to talk about the national Swedish team.

By Wednesday, amidst the build up for the World Cup qualifier match against Iceland, the tone had changed again. Aftonbladet had a picture of a sweaty, muscular Zlatan sprawled across page 20 next to the headline: "That's Why Zlatan is So Sexy - Swedes are turned on by attitude."

So this was the level things had come to: "More than one in three Swedes think attitude is the sexiest thing in a partner."

Unfortunately the paper didn't think to ask Ernst, Majlard and Pascalidou if they agreed. After all, each of them had dished out a good dose of the stuff themselves this week. Never mind, the usual vox pop suspects merrily confirmed Zlatan as having Sweden's sexiest attitude.

After Sweden's impressive 4-1 victory against Iceland in Reykjavik, Thursday saw the press in a more celebratory mood. There wasn't a column inch of Zlatan-bashing/worship in sight. Even so, Aftonbladet did report that Zlatan's muted appearance as a second-half substitute for Henrik "Henke" Larsson was because he was struggling with a back injury.

Looking out of sorts, apparently Zlatan made little impression on the match.

The player will now no doubt be focusing on getting fit for Juventus's match on Saturday against Messina. With David Trezeguet and Alessandro Del Piero ruled out of the game through injury, Zlatan will be looking to continue his impressive start to his Italian adventure.

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, Aftonbladet, Metro

Jon Buscall

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