Former Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is never one to shy away from controversy and this week has been no different. The following article has been written by Sudip, an excellent guest poster for The Footy Gang. Zlatan Ibrahimovic took all the headlines last weekend after his comments directed at Lebron James in which he told that athletes with certain social status shouldn't speak about politics.
It was particularly eye-opening coming from someone who has strongly spoken against social issues like racism and experienced racism during his childhood due to his father's Bosniak Muslim background.
“I like [James] a lot. He’s phenomenal, what he’s doing, but I don’t like when people with a status speak about politics. Do what you’re good at doing. I play football because I’m the best playing at football, I don’t do politics. If I’d been a politician, I would be doing politics. This is the first mistake famous people do when they become famous: for me it is better to avoid certain topics and do what you’re good at doing, otherwise you risk doing something wrongly.” Zlatan told UEFA and Discovery+ in Sweden.
Lebron James is one of the NBA's leading voices against social injustice and discrimination hit back by saying that he was the "wrong guy" to go at.
“I will never shut up about things that are wrong. I preach about my people and I preach about equality, social justice, racism, voter suppression – things that go on in our community,” he said last week.
“Because I was a part of my community at one point and saw the things that were going on, and I know what’s still going on because I have a group of 300-plus kids at my school that are going through the same thing and they need a voice."
“I’m their voice and I use my platform to continue to shed light on everything that might be going on, not only in my community but in this country and around the world.”
With 4 NBA championships to his name, Lebron was quick to point out that Zlatan once said his favourite athlete is Muhammad Ali for “what he did inside and outside the ring”.
“He’s the guy who said in Sweden, he was talking about the same things, because his last name wasn’t a traditional Swedish last name, he felt like there was some racism going on,” James said. “I speak from a very educated mind. I’m kind of the wrong guy to go at because I do my homework.” Lebron added.
Zlatan, the self-proclaimed Lion didn't take much time to respond to the Los Angeles star's responses. Speaking on Tuesday at a press conference for the San Remo music festival, which he is co-hosting, Ibrahimovic said, “Athletes unite the world, politics divide it,” he said. “Our role is to unite the world by doing what we do best. Athletes should be athletes and politicians should do politics.”
Zlatan also spoke about this recent clash with former Manchester United teammate Romelu Lukaku during a heated Milan Derby.
“If he wants to come [to San Remo] he’s welcome. What happens on the pitch stays on the pitch.” Ibrahimovic said.
Zlatan is currently plying his trade in Italy for AC Milan and his side have been drawn against Manchester United in the Europa League. Unfortunately, it looks like Zlatan will not be featuring due to injury. The Swedish striker had enjoyed a fruitful spell while at the Red Devils under Jose Mourinho.
Well, Zlatan being Zlatan isn't going to get out of headlines anytime soon. The lion hits spectaculars on and off the field. What do you think about Zlatan's comments? Should athletes talk politics off the field? Or is it a good option to have for a famous athlete to use his social status to speak for the ones whose voice remains unheard?
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