The former Swedish national team footballer, born in Malmö to a Bosnian father and Croatian mother, complained about negative coverage in the Swedish media, in an interview with French Canal Plus.
“They still attack me. Because they cannot accept that I am Ibrahimovic. If another Swedish player would do same mistake I do they would defend them. But when it comes to me they do not defend me,” the Manchester United striker said, adding that the criticism is the fuel that makes him stronger.
“This is about racism. I don't say there is racism but I say there is undercover racism. This exists, I am 100 percent sure. Because I am not Andersson or Svensson. If I would be that, trust me, they would defend me even if I would rob a bank. But they're not defending me in the way that they should.”
“Probably I'm the best player through history in Sweden. What I did, nobody else has done. The Golden Ball in Sweden. The best that ever won these had two Golden Balls. How many do I have? I have 11. I have 11 Golden Balls.”
Former Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) footballer Ibrahimovic, 36, who is not known for his modesty and has likened himself to things including fine wine, a great white shark and God, sparked controversy in France two years ago when he called his host nation a “shit country” that did not deserve PSG.
Asked by the Canal Plus interviewer if the Swedish media perhaps “think you're too arrogant”, he replied: “It doesn't matter. I'm the best there is. Either you're proud or appreciative of what you have, or you're not.”
?️ @Ibra_official : “Que font les médias suédois ? Ils me défendent ou ils m'attaquent ? (…) Si je m'appelais Andersson ou Svensson, ils me défendraient même si braquais une banque” #MaPartDOmbre pic.twitter.com/Yw57jPeoXx
— Canal Football Club (@CanalFootClub) January 7, 2018
Born in vulnerable Malmö district Rosengård, Ibrahimovic admitted in a 2011 autobiography that the first time he ventured into the city centre was in his late teens. In the interview he offers more insight into his combative attitude.
Ibrahimovic recounts an incident when he was out walking in one of Stockholm's poshest areas when a passerby recognized him and asked him “what are you doing here?”
The footballer then replied “what the fuck are you doing here?” realizing later that the man had perhaps not meant it as in “you're not welcome here” but rather exclaiming surprise at seeing a famous footballer in person. He describes his instinctive response as an automatic defence mechanism.
“My answer was pretty aggressive, because I felt that he looked down on me like 'what are you doing here in this neighbourhood'. That's because of where I come from,” he said, adding that he did not feel welcome when he first ventured outside of Rosengård, nor when he joined Malmö FF as a professional footballer.
“We bring this attitude outside,” he admits. “But it is not arrogance, it's confidence. It's a big difference.”