13 February 2019
The Theater of Excess: Goal by Ibrahimovic
On a cold November night in 2012 the English and the Swedish battle on the pitch. It is the first match in the newly built Friends Arena in Stockholm and English manager Steven Gerrard’s 100th cap, but the game is a friendly and not likely to be etched into the collective memory of those who worship at the altar of the beautiful game (Miller). No historic rivalry elevates this match-up to the eye of the world stage. Rather, England, the proud father of soccer, faces Sweden, a country that often struggles to qualify for the World Cup. But this Swedish team is distinct in that it is lead by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, the 6’5” striker internationally renown for his impressive open-field goals, gargantuan ego, and rebellious attitude (Miller). With twelve minutes remaining and the English ahead 2-1, the boisterous British fans are not impressed with the player who often in interviews refers to himself in the third person. They mockingly chant, “You’re a shit Andy Carroll,” alluding to the West Ham United striker who bares resemblance to Zlatan and similarly sports a “man bun” (Miller). Zlatan answers the crowd with a sudden offensive fury, scoring back-to-back goals and completing a hat trick that dissolves the English noise to frosty breath. Thirty seconds into injury time, the game looks nearly won; the English commentator Stan Collymore concludes, “a very good game, very worthwhile exercise for both teams,” as a ball is defensively launched away from Swedish territory, landing just shy of the English penalty box (“Sweden Vs England 4-2”). Zlatan, the yellow lion, chases the fickle sphere as two English sheep follow on each flank. On the ball’s first bounce, English keeper Joe Hart preemptively heads the ball away and over a rapidly enclosing Zlatan. But the ball travels more in height than in distance, and Zlatan, like a hunter tracking fowl, pivots and follows it as two British defenders drop back past Hart into the penalty area –– a second layer of defense for whatever devilry the Northman might attempt. Then Zlatan enacts the extraordinary: with his back to the goal, he throws all two hundred pounds of his body into a gravity defying bicycle kick that sends the ball thirty-five yards over the keeper and two defenders into the net. As Collymore exclaims in disbelief, “I HAVE JUST SEEN THE MOST INSANE GOAL I EVA EVA SEEN ON THE FOOTBALL PITCH,” Zlatan runs across the field beaming like a child who has just scored his first (“Sweden Vs England 4-2”). He lifts off his shirt in jubilation and jumps into the air to deliver a victorious uppercut into the face of all doubters who deride his aplomb as baseless pomposity (“Sweden Vs England 4-2”). This goal, awarded the FIFA Puskás Award for Goal of the Year, is a public service announcement: Here is a man whose larger than life playing matches his larger than life personality (Miller). In the words of Zlatan on this fateful feat: “In the beginning they were saying, they were talking. I give them a gift for life” (ESPN).
ESPN. “Zlatan Ibrahimovic on his 2012 Sweden wonder-goal: I give England a gift for life.” ESPN, 9 Aug. 2018. http://www.espn.com/soccer/blog/the-toe-poke/65/post/3590860/zlatan-ibrahimovic-on-his-2012-sweden-wonder-goal-i-give-england-a-gift-for-life. Accessed 13 Feb. 2019.
Miller, Nick. “Reviewing Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s wonder goal against England five years later.” ESPN, 14 Nov. 2017, http://www.espn.com.au/football/blog/espn-fc-united/68/post/3268580/reliving-zlatan-ibrahimovics-wonder-goal-against-england-five-years-later. Accessed 13 Feb. 2019.
“Sweden Vs England 4-2 – Zlatan Ibrahimovic Unbelievable Bicycle Goal with Stan Collymore commentary.” Youtube, uploaded by berra86, 15 Nov. 2012, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yzvQCbdAIZQ. Accessed 13 Feb. 2019.