Sunday, 12 January 2014

Zlatan strikes a low blow to women's football...

...with his disrespectful comments in the Swedish press.

Never far from the limelight, Ibrahimovic's ever apparent male ego shone through yet again when he spoke here to the Swedish Expressen newspaper. Ibrahimovic had originally directed his anger towards the Swedish FA over their decision to give Anders Svensson a new Volvo for breaking Thomas Ravelli's record of over 143 international caps. He felt the gesture was insulting towards Svensson and that he deserved better recognition for his achievement. However, Therese Sjogran failed to get a similar reward even though she has earned a record 187 caps playing for Sweden.

Ibrahimovic was asked for his opinion in the interview and responded with claims that male footballers deserve more recognition: "With all respect for what the ladies have done, and they've done it fantastically well, you can't compare men's and women's football. Give it up, it's not even funny."

He genuinely seems insulted to even be associated with female players, stating: "I was asked in the summer who was the better player, me or (Swedish female player) Lotta Schelin. You're joking with me, right? Do I have to answer that?........When I come out in Europe they compare me to Messi and Ronaldo. When I come home they compare me to a female player. What the hell, should I feel ashamed to come home?"

Given the fact that professional female footballers get paid minimally compared their male counterparts, Ibrahimovic being one of the highest paid in the world, he suggested how women could be rewarded: "Give them a bicycle with my autograph and that will be enough."

His comments sparked a response from head coach of the Sweden women's national team, Pia Sundhage, who said: "Boring and sad for Swedish football when a team captain puts it so. It betrays a lack of male football values.

Therese Sjogran also expressed her disappointment over the comments: "He is the biggest sporting profile that we have in Sweden and there are many who listen to him and have him as a role model.....At one moment he says that we are fantastic and then he thinks we should have a bike.....It feels like he is up and down in the article and is unfortunately wrong in my opinion." In an interview with Sydsvenskan, she further added: "He devalues our sport and women in general.......I understand him when he says that the men's team brings in more money and exposure. but it's still about respect, we're doing the same stuff: it's football. then one should not compare men and women, it is quite impossible."

Sjogran was later presented with a new car and the story got lot's of media attention, especially in Sweden. It feels like a real shame though when high profile players like Zlatan don't use their status to highlight issues within the sport-whether it's sexism, homophobia, racism, etc. Don't get me wrong, there are many footballers out there doing so and contributing to charities and projects within football or other areas. But women's football needs not only the support of the fans, media and clubs, but also that of male players who have the power to influence people's opinions and change the future of the game.

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