Zlatan is kicking a ball. Right now that means a lot to me. Not because I’m into soccer, but because of what it symbolizes.
I was raised in Malmö and so was Zlatan. We went to high school together (the same high school Anita Ekberg went to, but that was before our time…). I can’t remember ever seeing him, though I must have seen him many times. It was a large high school and we attended different programs – he attended the soccer program and I did the International Baccalaureate.
Zlatan used to play for Malmö FF. Three of grandma’s brothers once upon a time played for Malmö FF too. They made quite a name for themselves – the Hjertsson brothers. Sven, one of them, notoriously pulled his shorts down during a game in Brazil, as he felt it would take too long to walk off the field to change to a new pair. I suspect that only fueled their fame. Kjell, on the other hand, ended up training a young Zlatan at some point or other.
I’m on “workcation” in Sweden for a couple of months and was staying with my gran this week as she’s recovering from cancer surgery. Zlatan’s dad lives in an apartment opposite of hers, which she reminded me about when I was there.
I ran into a guy in Morocco, outside Marrakech, who, once he found out I was Swedish, told me that Zlatan always passed by when in town. I bumped into someone else recently as well that had a story about Zlatan, but I forget what country I was in. I think it was in the UK.
Of course, if you open the sports pages of a magazine, again, there’s Zlatan. Right now, my dad is watching Sweden play Italy and, well, there’s Zlatan on the screen.
Wherever I go, there’s Zlatan.
I don’t care much about soccer. I never understood the pleasure of chasing a ball and, even less, watching others chase it. Of course, it can be fun for the sake of the atmosphere where you watch the game though and some goals are spectacular. Especially Zlatan’s.
The thing is, in so many places around the world right now there’s fear. In some countries it’s because neighboring countries don’t get along. In other countries, it’s because different groups within the country don’t get along. There was a mass shooting in Orlando that wasted so many people’s lives for no comprehensible reason. At least no comprehensible reason to me. It makes me scared to think there are people out there capable of murdering like that. Yet, I look at the images from Paris and thousands of people have gathered to watch people kick ball. They’ve stood up against the threat of terrorists and as different as they all are, they’re united in the pleasure of watching a game. A simple game of kicking ball has removed borders and barriers and made people come together in joy.
It gives me hope. I work in a township in South Africa and many times I’m so bothered by what I see and experience it feels like a part of me gives up, because I don’t understand how man could create such a cruel world. Then I see one man, by kicking a ball, uniting people all over the world in their admiration for how he kicks that ball. It’s such a simple thing – the love of sports. The love of playing a game. The love of team spirit.
One day I hope that team spirit encompasses the world and what we fight for is not our way, but the best way for the earth and all who live upon it. I know it’s not that simple. But look how far we can get just by kicking a ball.
Image source: https://za.pinterest.com/pin/507780926717812850/