The football star may be well-accustomed to carrying the hopes of his nation, but this weekend the pressure is on someone who loves him more than anyone else. The Local takes a look at singer Frans Jeppsson Wall's loving tribute to his childhood idol, and five other things you didn't know about the Eurovision hopeful.
1. Who's da man? Zlatan.
Frans may only be 17 but he already has a long history in the music industry, first making a splash ten years ago as a cute kid that professed his love for Ibrahimovic. His debut single “Who’s da Man” was released in the build-up to the 2006 World Cup, and featured a string of sickly sweet lyrics like “you’re the best we’ve ever seen…you are my king… you’re our superman”. Perfectly timed to coincide with the rise of the cult of Zlatan, it became a smash hit, staying at number one in the Swedish charts for 13 weeks and selling over 90,000 copies. An English version was even recorded.
2. His melodies once inspired an entire city’s call to prayer
“Who’s da Man” was such a big success in the summer of 2006 that it inspired one town's call to prayer. In May of that year, the church Fredrikskyrkan on Karlskrona's main square changed its bell tone to the melody of the Frans hit, and kept it that way for the duration of Sweden’s stay in the World Cup. It seems football really is a religion for Swedes.
Photo: Johan Nilsson/TT
3. He is very international
Swedes generally have a solid grasp of English, but for Frans, singing in the language is truly second nature. While his mother is Swedish, dad Mark grew up in London, and the Eurovision hopeful admits he almost always speaks his father’s native tongue at home. More intriguingly still, Mark is of Nigerian heritage, and Frans even has an African middle name, Osifoh, which his family could be heard shouting out when he won Sweden’s Eurovision qualifiers earlier this year. A truly international entrant for a multicultural nation.
4. He’s a keen sportsperson
Music isn’t Frans’ only love. In his younger years he was also a gymnast, and after being forced to give that up due to a knee injury, he switched to football. Currently playing at youth level for Sövestads IF in southern Sweden’s Ystad, coach Leif Henningsson describes him as a “quick midfielder with good control”. A nasty cruciate ligament injury has kept him out of action this year, however.
A young Frans in the Swedish national football shirt. Photo: Jonas Ekströmer
5. He’s from Wallander country
Even if he manages to win Eurovision, Frans will still have fierce competition if he wants to become the most famous person associated with his native Ystad. The town is also home to fictional detective Kurt Wallander, star of a host of best-selling novels as well as two critically acclaimed television adaptations in both English and Swedish. Ystad’s tourism office even offers a Wallander tour, in which diehards can trace the footsteps of the crime-fighter or attempt to solve some of his toughest mysteries. Perhaps a Frans tour could be next.
Wallander cakes on sale in Ystad. Photo: Drago Prvulovic/SCANPIX
6. He loves reggae
Cheesy pop doesn’t get much cheesier than Eurovision, but Frans doesn't take his inspiration from the kind of music that will be performed at the Globe Arena on May 14th. The Swede cites Bob Marley rather than Justin Bieber as his musical hero, and admits studying him in an effort to improve his own work. In that context, the reggae undertones of “Who’s da Man” backing band Elias suddenly makes sense.
Bob Marley playing at Gröna Lund in 1978. Photo: Bo Lindell