"I AM ZLATAN"
By Zlatan Ibrahimovic as told to David Lagercrantz
This book is dedicated to my family and friends, to those who have stood by my side, on good days and
I also want to dedicate it to all the kids out there, those who feel different and don't fit in.
Those who are seen for the wrong reasons. It's OK to be different. Continue being yourself. It worked out
Pep Guardiola, the coach in Barcelona, with his grey suits and troubled face, came up to me looking
I thought he was all right at that time, certainly not a Mourinho or Capello, but an ok guy. This was way
before we started our war. It was the fall of 2009 and I was living my childhood dream. I was playing in
the best team in the world and had been welcomed by 70 000 people at the Camp Nou. I was walking on
clouds. Well maybe not entirely, there were some bullshit in the papers. I was the bad boy and all that. I
was difficult dealing with. But still, I was here. Helena and the kids were also good. We had a nice house
in Esplugues de Llobregat and I felt fully charged. What could go wrong?
"Hey you", Guardiola said. "Here in Barca we keep our feet down on the ground."
"Sure", I said. "Fine."
"Here we don't drive any Ferraris or Porsches to training."
I nodded, didn't go cocky on him, like how the fuck is what car I'm driving your concern? But I thought
"What does he want? What message is he giving me? Believe me, I don't need any fancy cars or parking
on the sidewalk to show off anymore. That wasn't it. I love my cars. They're a passion of mine, but I
sensed something else behind his words. Kind of: don't think you're so special.
I had already at that point understood that Barca is like a school. The players were all nice, nothing wrong
with them, and there was Maxwell, my old friend from Ajax and Inter. But honestly, none of the guys acted
like superstars, and I thought that was odd. Messi, Xavi, Iniesta, the whole gang, was like school kids.
The world's best players stood there nodding, and I couldn't understand that. It was ridiculous. If a coach
in Italy says "jump", the players ask "what? Why should we jump?"
Here, everyone jumped at any command. I didn't fit in, not at all. But I was thinking: Accept the situation.
Don't confirm their thoughts about you. So I started adapting. I became too kind. It was insane. Mino
Raiola, my agent, my friend, said:
"What's wrong with you Zlatan? I don't recognize you."
No one recognized me, not my buddies, no one. I became boring, bland, and you should know that ever
since Malmo FF I've had one philosophy: I run my own race. I don't give a damn what people think and
I've never felt comfortable with authority. I like guys who run the red light, if you know what I mean.
But now... I didn't say what I wanted. I said what I thought people expected of me. It was wack. I drove
the club's Audi and stood there nodding like back in school, or like I should have stood nodding back in
school. I didn't give my team mates any crap. I was boring. Zlatan wasn't Zlatan, and that hadn't happen
since back in school when I saw chicks in Ralph Lauren shirts for the first time and almost shit my pants
when I was asking them out. But still, I started the season great. I scored goal after goal after goal. We
won the UEFA Super Cup. I was shining. I dominated. But I was somebody else. Something had
happened, nothing serious, not yet. I had been silenced, and that's dangerous, believe me. I have to be
mad to play well. I have to shout and make scenes. Now I kept all that within me. Maybe it had to do with
all pressure. I don't know.
I was the second most expensive transfer in history, and the papers kept saying I was a problem child
and had issues with my personality, all kinds of bullshit, and unfortunately I felt the weight of it all - in
Barca we don't stick out, and I guess I wanted to show that I could fit in. It was the most stupid decision of
my entire life. I was still killing on the field. But it wasn't as fun anymore.
I even thought about quitting football. Not that I would break my contract, I'm a professional. But I lost the
fun. And then came Christmas break. We went to Are and I rented a snowmobile. Whenever life stands
still, I want action. I always drive like a maniac. I've gone 325 km/hr in my Porsche Turbo, leaving chasing
cops behind. I've done so many fucked up things I barely want to think about them. And now in the
mountains I was giving it my all on the snowmobile, got freeze burns and had the time of my life.
Finally some adrenaline! Finally the old, the real Zlatan, and I were thinking to myself: Why am I doing
this? I have money. I don't have to feel shit with idiot coaches. I can have fun instead and take care of my
family. It was a great time, but it didn't last long. When we returned to Spain disaster struck. Not
immediately, but slowly. Disaster was in the air.
A light snowfall came. It was like the Spaniards had never seen snow before, and in our hood, in the hills
above Barcelona, cars were smashing to the left and right, and Mino, the fat idiot - the wonderful fat idiot I
should add if anyone would misunderstand me - froze like a dog in his summer shoes and light jacket and
convinced me to take the Audi. It almost ended in disaster. On a downhill street we lost control of the car
and smashed into a stone wall. The whole right side of the car was demolished. Many had crashed during
the bad weather, but no one as badly as me. I won the crash contest too, and we laughed a lot about that.
And I was actually feeling like myself sometimes. I felt ok. But then Messi started talking. Messi is
awesome. Fucking unbelievable. I don't know him very well. We are very different personalities. He came
to Barca 13 years old and is brought up in their culture. He doesn't have any problems with that school
shit. In the team, the play revolves around him, which is natural really. He's brilliant, but now I had come,
and I was scoring more than he did. He went to Guardiola and said:
"I don't want to play on the right side, on the wing, anymore. I want to be in the middle."
That was where I was. But Guardiola didn't give a shit. He changed tactics. From 4-3-3 he switched to 4-
5-1 with me on top and Messi right behind, leaving me in the shadow. All balls went through Messi and I
couldn't play my game. I have to be free as a bird on the field. I'm the guy who wants to make a difference
on all levels. But Guardiola sacrificed me. That's the truth. He locked me in up there. OK, I can
understand his situation. Messi was the star.
Guardiola has to listen to him. But come on! I had scored goal after goal in Barca, I was lethal too. He
couldn't adapt the team after one single guy. I mean: why the hell did he buy me then? No one pays that
kind of money just to strangle me as a player. Guardiola had to think of both of us, and of course, the
mood amongst the club management became nervous. I was their biggest investment ever, and I didn't
feel good in the new lineup. I was too expensive not to feel good. Txiki Begiristain, the sports director,
was pushing me; he said I had to speak with the coach.
"Work it out!"
I didn't like it. I'm a player who accepts the situation. But sure, fine, I did it! A friend of mine said "Zlatan,
it's like if Barca bought a Ferrari but are driving it like a Fiat", and I thought, yeah, that's a good argument.
Guardiola had transformed me into a simpler, worse player. And the whole team was losing from that.
So I went to the coach. I approached him on the pitch, during training, and I was careful about one thing. I
didn't want a fight, and I told him:
"I don't want to fight. I don't want a war. I just want to discuss things."
He nodded. But maybe he looked a bit frightened, so I repeated:
"If you think I want a fight, I will leave. I just want to talk."
"Good! I like talking with the players."
"Listen!" I continued. "You are not using my capacity. If it was a goal scorer you wanted, you should have
bought Inzaghi or someone. I need space, and to be free. I can't run up and down constantly. I weigh 98
kilos. I don't have the physique for it."
He was thinking. He was often doing that.
"I think you can play like this."
"No, then its better if you bench me. With all due respect, I understand you, but you are sacrificing me for
other players. This isn't working. It's like you bought a Ferrari but are driving it like if it was a Fiat."
He continued thinking.
"OK, maybe it was a mistake. This is my problem. I will work it out."
I was happy. He would work it out.
But then the ice cold came. He would barely look at me, and I'm not one who really cares about such
things, and despite my new position I continued to be great. I scored more goals. Not as nice ones as in
Italy. I was too high up on the pitch. It wasn't Ibracadabra anymore, but still... Against Arsenal at the
Emirates Stadium in the Champions League we outplayed them completely. The stadium was boiling.
The first twenty minutes were amazing, and I scored one goal... two goals. Beautiful goals, and I was
thinking: Screw Guardiola! I'll run my own race! But then I was substituted, Arsenal came back and
scored two goals. It was shit and afterwards my thigh hurt. Normally a coach cares about such things. An
injured Zlatan is a serious thing for any team. But Guardiola was ice cold. He didn't say a single word, and
I was out for three weeks. Not once did he face me and ask "How are you feeling, Zlatan? Can you play
the next game?"
He didn't even say hello. Not a word. He avoided looking at me. If I entered a room, he would leave.
What's going on? I was thinking. Have I done something? Do I look strange? Am I speaking strange? My
mind was spinning in circles. I couldn't sleep. I was thinking about it constantly. Not that I needed
Guardiola's love or anything. He could hate me all he wanted. I'm triggered by hate and revenge. But now
I lost focus, and I talked to the other players. No one understood what was going on. I asked Thierry
Henry, who was on the bench during this time. Thierry Henry is the top scorer in the history of the French
national team. He's cool. He was still amazing, and he was also having problems with Guardiola.
"He doesn't greet me. He doesn't look me in the eyes, what has happened?" I asked.
"No idea", Henry said.
We started joking about it. "Hey, Zlatan, has he looked at you today?" "No, but I saw his back!"
"Congratulations, things are improving!" Shit like that, and it helped a little bit. But it was really getting on
my nerves, and I asked myself every hour: What have I done? What's wrong? But I never got any
answers. Nothing more than that the ice storm must have had to do with our talk about my position. There
couldn't be any other explanation. But that would be twisted. Was he psyching me out because a chat
about my position? I tried confronting him, I'd walk towards him try looking him in the eyes. He turned
around. He seemed scared, and sure I could have booked an appointment and asked "What is this
about?" But never. I had done enough crawling for that guy.
This was his problem. Not that I knew what it was. I still don't know it. Or, well... I don't think the guy can
handle strong personalities. He wants nice school boys. And worse: he runs away from his problems. He
can't look them in the eye, and that made everything so much worse.
It got worse.
The ash cloud from the volcano on Iceland came. No flights at all in Europe and we were going to San
Siro to face Inter. We took the bus. Some brain-dead person in Barca thought that was a good idea. I was
free from injuries then. But the trip became a disaster. It took 16 hours and we were all worn out when we
arrived in Milano. It was our most important game so far that season, semifinal in the Champions League,
and I was prepared for mayhem, booing and whistling at my old arena, no problems, that drive me. But
the situation a part from that was terrible. And I think Guardiola had a hang up on Mourinho.
Jose Mourinho is a big star. He had won Champions League already with Porto. He was my coach in
Inter. He's cool. The first time he met Helena he whispered to her: "Helena, you only have one mission.
Feed Zlatan, let him sleep, keep him happy!" The guy says what he wants. I like him. He's the leader of
an army. But he also cares. He was sending me text messages all the time in Inter asking how I was
feeling. He's the opposite of Guardiola. If Mourinho lights up a room, Guardiola pulls the blinds." I guess
Guardiola now tried to measure up to him.
"It's not Mourinho we are facing. It's Inter", he said, like we thought we'd play ball with the coach. And
then he pulled his philosophy crap.
I was barely listening. Why would I? It was advanced crap about blood, sweat and tears, shit like that. I've
never heard a coach talk like that. Pure garbage. But now he finally came up to me. It was during the
practice at San Siro, and people were there watching, like "Wow, Ibra is back!"
"Can you play from start" Guardiola asked.
"Definitely", I answered.
"But are you prepared?"
"Definitely. I feel fine."
"But are you ready?"
He was like a parrot, and I got some nasty vibes.
"Listen, it was a terrible trip, but I'm in good form. The injury is gone. I'll give it my everything."
Guardiola looked as though he doubted me. I didn't understand him, and afterwards I called Mino Raiola.
I call Mino all the time. Swedish journalists use to say: Mino is bad image for Zlatan. Mino is this and that.
You want the truth? Mino is a genius. I asked him:
"What does the guy mean?" None of us understood. We started losing it. But I got to play from start and
we scored 1-0. Then the game turned, I was substituted after sixty minutes and we lost 3-1. It was shit. I
was furious. But in the earlier days, like Ajax, I could dwell on a loss for days or even weeks. Now I have
Helena and the kids. They help me forget and move on. And I was focusing on the return game at Camp
Nou. The return game was incredibly important and the excitement was building up, day by day.
The pressure was incredible. It was like thunder in the air, and we had to win big to advance. But then... I
don't even want to think about it, or, well, I do. It made me stronger. We won by 1-0. But that wasn't
enough. We were eliminated from the Champions League, and afterwards Guardiola looked at me like it
was my fault, and I was thinking: The bottle is empty now. We're out of playing cards. After that game it
felt like I wasn't welcome in the club anymore, and I felt bad driving their Audi.
I felt like shit sitting in the dressing room and Guardiola would stare at me like I was a problem, some
freak. It was insane. He was a wall, a stone wall. I didn't get a single sign of life from him, and I wanted to
get far away every second.
I was no longer part of the team, and when we played Villa Real he let me play five minutes. Five
minutes! I was boiling inside, not because I was on the bench. I can deal with that if the coach is man
enough to say: You're not good enough, Zlatan.
But Guardiola didn't say a single word, nothing, and at this point I'd had it. I could feel it in my entire body,
and if I was Guardiola, I would have been scared. Not that I'm a fighter. I've done all kinds of crazy shit.
But I don't fight, well, on the pitch I've knocked one or two out. But still, when I get angry, my eyes turn
black. You don't want to be anywhere near. And let me tell you in detail what happened. After the game I
went into the dressing room, I hadn't exactly planned some raging attack... But I wasn't happy, to use
mild words, and in the dressing room my enemy stood, scratching his bald head. Few others were in
there. Toure and a few others, and the big metal box where we put our clothes, and I was staring at the
box. Then I kicked it. I think it flew like three meters, but I wasn't done yet. Far from it. I yelled:
"You have no balls", and probably some worse things, and added:
"You shit yourself in front of Mourinho. You can go fuck yourself!"
I went insane, and maybe you'd expect Guardiola to say something, maybe: Calm down, you don't talk
like that to your coach! But he's not like that. He's a weak coward. He just picked up the box, like a little
cleaner, and then he left and never talked about it again, nothing at all. But of course words spread. In the
bus everyone was crazy:
"What happened, what happened?!"
Nothing, I thought. Just a few words of truth. But I didn't have the energy talking about it. I was so pissed
off. My coach had frozen me out week after week without explaining why. It was sick. I've had some bad
fights before. But the day after we'd always sorted things out and moved on. Now the silence and terror
just continued, and I thought: "I'm 28 years old. I've scored 22 goals and 15 assists only here in Barca,
and still I'm treated like I don't exist, like air. Should I accept this? Should I continue adapting? No way!
When I understood I'd be on the bench against Almeria, I remembered those words: "Here, in Barca, we
don't drive Ferrari or Porsche to the practice!" What bullshit was that anyway? I drive what I want, at least
if it pisses off some idiot. I jumped into my Enzo, floored it and parked outside the door at practice. Of
course it resulted in a circus. The papers wrote that my car cost as much as the monthly salary for the
entire Almeria squad. But I didn't care. Media bullshit meant nothing at this point. I had decided to give
I decided to fight back seriously, and you should know one thing, that's a game I can play. I've been a bad
boy before, believe me. But I didn't want to mess with the preparations just because of that, so obviously I
called Mino. We always plan the smart and dirty tricks together. I also called my buddies.
I wanted different perspectives on the situation, and oh god, I got all kinds of advice. The Rosengard guys
wanted to come down and "trash stuff", and of course that was nice of them to offer, but it didn't feel like
the right strategy at that point. And of course I discussed everything with Helena. She's from another
world. She's cool. She can also be tough. But now she tried encouraging me:
"You've become a better dad. When you don't have a team where you feel good, you team up with us",
she said, and that made me happy.
I played some ball with the kids and tried to make sure everyone was feeling alright, and of course I spent
time with my video games. It's like a disease for me. They eat me up. But since the time in Inter when I
could play until four, five in the morning and go to practice after just a couple of hours sleep, I've set some
rules for myself: no Xbox or Playstation after 10 at night.
I can't let time run away from me, and during these weeks in Spain I really tried to spend time with my
family and just chill in our garden. I even had a Corona now and then. That was the good side of it. But at
nights when I would be lying awake, or at practice when I saw Guardiola, the dark side of me woke up.
The anger was pounding inside my head and I planned my next move and my revenge.
No, I realized it more and more, there was no turning back. It was time to stand up for myself and become
the real me again.
Because don't forget: You can take the kid away from the ghetto, but you can't take the ghetto away from
Ibra & Sanela on dad's blue Opel Kadett
My brother gave me a BMX bike when I was little. I called it Fido Dido.
Fido Dido was a tough little bastard, a cartoon guy with spiky hair. I thought he was the coolest. But the
bike got stolen quickly outside the Rosengard bathhouse and my dad went there , with open shirt and
sleeves rolled up. He's the kind of guy who says: No one touches my kids! No one steals their stuff! But
not even a tough guy like him could do anything about it. Fido Dido was gone, and I was devastated.
After that I started stealing bikes. I'd smash the locks. I became great at it. Bang, bang, bang, and the
bike was mine. I was the bicycle thief. It was my first "thing". It was pretty innocent. But sometimes it got
out of control. Once I dressed up in all black, went out into the night like fucking Rambo and got a military
bike using a huge bolt cutter. And sure, that bike was cool. I loved it. But honestly, it was more the kick I
got out of it than the bike. It triggered me sneaking around in the dark, and I'd throw eggs at windows and
that kind of stuff and I was only caught sometimes.
One embarrassing thing happened at the Wessels department store out at Jagersro, for example. But
honestly, I deserved it. Me and a friend were wearing huge winter down jackets in the middle of summer,
quite fucked up, and under those jackets we had four table tennis rackets and some other crap we picked
up. "You guys, aren't you paying for those" said the guard who caught us. I pulled out a few pennies from
my pocket: "With these?" But the guy didn't have a sense of humor, so I decided to be more professional
from then on. And I guess I became quite a skilled maniac in the end.
I was a small kid. I had a big nose and I lisped and went to a speech coach. A woman came to my school
and taught me how to say S and I thought it was demeaning. I guess I wanted to assert myself somehow.
And it was like I was boiling inside. I couldn't sitt still for more than a second and I was running around all
the time. It was like nothing bad could happen to me if I ran fast enough. We lived in Rosengard outside
of Malmo and it was full of Somalis, Turks, Yugoslavs, Poles, all kinds of immigrants, and Swedes. We
were all acting cocky. The smallest thing got us fired up, and it wasn't easy at home, to say the least.
We lived on the fourth floor up on Cronmans Road, and we didn't run around hugging each other. No one
asked "How was your day today little Zlatan", nothing like that. No grown-ups would assist with homework
or ask if you had any problems. You were on your own, and you couldn't whine about someone being
mean to you. You just had to bite the bullet, and there was chaos and fights and some punches. But sure,
sometimes you'd wish for some sympathy. One day I fell off the roof at the kindergarten. I got a black eye
and ran home crying expecting a pat on the head or at least some kind words. I got a slap in the face.
"What were you doing on the roof?"
It wasn't like "Poor Zlatan." It was "You fucking idiot, climbing up a roof. Here's a slap for you", and I was
shocked and ran away. Mom didn't have time for comforting, not at that time. She was cleaning and
struggling to make money, she was really a fighter. But she couldn't take much else. She had it tough,
and all of us had a terrible temper. It wasn't like the normal Swedish chat at home, like "Honey, can you
please pass me the butter", more like: "Get the milk you jerk!" There were doors slamming and mom
crying. She cried a lot. She has my love. She's had a tough life. She was cleaning like fourteen hours a
day, and sometimes we'd tag along, emptying trashcans and stuff like that and got some pocket money.
But sometimes mom lost it.
She'd hit us with wooden spoons, and sometimes they broke, so I had to go buy a new one, like if it was
my fault she'd hit me that hard. I remember one day in particular. I had thrown a brick at kindergarten that
somehow bounced and broke a window. Mom freaked out when she heard about it. Everything that cost
money freaked her out, and she hit me with spoon. Bang, boom! It hurt and maybe the spoon broke
again. I don't know. Sometimes there were no spoons at home, and then she'd come after me with a
rolling pin. But then I got away, and I talked with Sanela about it.
Sanela is my only full sibling. She's two years older. She's a tough girl, and she thought we should play
some games with mom. Fuck, hitting us in the head! Insane! So we went to the store and bought a bunch
of those spoons, really cheap ones, and gave them to mom as a Christmas present.
I don't think she got the irony. She didn't have room for that. There had to be food on the table. All her
energy was consumed by that. We were quite a bunch at home, also my half-sisters who later
disappeared and broke all contact with us, and my younger brother Aleksandar, we'd call him Keki, and
the money wasn't enough. Nothing was enough and the older ones to care of the younger, otherwise we
wouldn't have made it. There was a lot of instant macaroni and ketchup, and eating at friends' homes or
at my aunt Hanife's who lived in the same building. She was the one of us who came to Sweden first.
I wasn't even two years old when my mom and dad got divorced, and I don't remember anything about it.
That's probably good. It wasn't a good marriage, I've heard. There were a lot of fighting, and they had
gotten married for my dad to get a residence permit. I guess it was natural for all of us to end up living
with mom. But I missed my dad. He had more going for him and there was always something fun going
on with him. Me and Sanela would meet dad every other weekend and he used to come in his old blue
Opel Kadett and we'd go to Pildammsparken or out on the island in Limhamn to get hamburgers and soft
ice cream. One day he made a splurge and got us each a pair of Nike Air Max, the cool sneakers that
where like over a thousand kronor, really expensive. Mine were green, Sanela's pink. No one in
Rosengard had shoes like that, and we felt so cool. We had it nice with dad and we'd get some money for
pizza and Coca-Cola. He had a decent job and only one other son, Sapko. He was our fun weekend-dad.
But things would change. Sanela was awesome at running. She was the fastest at running 60 meters in
her age in all of Skane [ed note: region of southern Sweden] and dad was proud as a peacock and used
to drive her to practice. "Great, Sanela. But you can do better", he said. That was his thing, "Better, better,
don't settle", and this time I was in the car. Dad remembers it like that anyway, and he noticed it
immediately. Something was wrong. Sanela was quiet. She struggled not to cry.
"What's wrong?" he said.
"Nothing", she answered and then he asked again and she told.
We don't have to go into details, that's Sanela's story. But my dad, he's like a lion. If something happens
to his kids he goes wild, especially when it comes to Sanela, his only daughter. And it became a huge
circus, with interrogations, social welfare investigations, custody battles and shit.
I didn't understand too much of it. I was turning nine.
It was the fall of 1990 and they kept that stuff away from me. But I had my hunches of course. It was
turbulent at home. Still, not the first time. One of my half-sisters did drugs, some heavy shit, and kept
stashes at home. There was always chaos around her, and creepy people calling and a lot of fear that
something bad would happen. Another time my mom was arrested for stashing stolen goods. Some
friends had told her: "Take these necklaces!" and she did it. She didn't understand. But the stuff was
stolen and the police came bombarding in and took her. I remember it vaguely like a weird feeling:
Where's mom? Why is she gone?
But after that latest thing with Sanela she was crying again, and I just ran away from it. I was messing
around outside or playing football. Not like I was the most balanced guy, or the greatest promise. I was
just one of the kids kicking ball, or actually worse. I had some terrible outbursts. I'd headbutt people and
lash out against my teammates. But I had the football. It was my thing, and I was playing all the time, in
our yard, on the field, during school breaks. We went to the Varner Ryden school at that time. Sanela in
fifth grade, and me in third, and no one doubted which one of us was well-behaved! Sanela had to grow
up at young age and become an extra-mom for Keki and take care of the family when the sisters left. She
took a huge responsibility. She behaved. She wasn't the girl who got called to the principal's office, and
that's why I became worried immediately when I got the call. We were both asked in for talks, and like, if
only me had been called, it'd been normal, just routine. But now it was me and Sanela. Had someone
died? What was going on?
I got stomach pains, and we walked through the corridor. It must have been late fall or winter. I felt
paralyzed. But when we came into the office my dad was sitting there with the principal, and I felt happy.
Dad used to mean fun stuff. But wasn't fun. Everything was stiff and formal and I felt very uncomfortable,
and honestly, I didn't get much of what was said, only that it was about dad and mom, and it wasn't any
pleasant stuff. But now I know. Now, much later, when working on this book, the pieces of the puzzle
have come in place.
In November 1990 the social services had done their investigation, and dad had gotten custody of me
and Sanela. The environment at mom's place was decided bad for us, not so much because of her, I
have to say that. There were other things, but it was a huge thing anyway, a major disapproval, and mom
was devastated. Would she lose us as well? It was a disaster. She cried and cried and sure, she had
been hitting us with spoons, given us beatings and not listened to us, and she'd had bad luck with her
men and there was no money and all that. But she loved her kids. She was just raised under tough
conditions, and I think my dad understood that. He went to her the same afternoon:
"I don't want you to lose them, Jurka."
But he demanded some improvement, and dad isn't to play games with in situations like that. I'm sure
there were harsh words. "If things don't improve, you'll never see the kids again", stuff like that, but I don't
know exactly what happened. But Sanela iived with dad for a few weeks, and I stayed with mom, despite
everything. It wasn't a good solution. Sanela didn't like it at dads. She and I found him sleeping on the
floor around that time, and the table was full of beer cans and bottles. "Dad, wake up, wake up!" But he
kept sleeping. It was a strange thing for me. Like, why does he do this? We didn't know what to do. But
we wanted to help. Maybe he was freezing? We covered him with towels and blankets to get him warm.
But I didn't understand anything. Sanela probably understood more. She had noticed how his mood could
swing and how he could explode and scream like a bear and I think that frightened her. And she missed
her little brother. She wanted to go back to mom and I wanted the opposite. I missed my dad, and one of
those nights I called him, probably sounding desperate. I felt lonely without Sanela.
"I don't wanna live here. I wanna be at your place."
"Come here", he said. "I'll call a cab."
There were new investigations by the social services, and in March 1991 mom got custody of Sanela and
dad of me. We separated, me and sis, but we have always stayed close, or let's say, it's been up and
down. But we are very close. Sanela is a hairdresser now and sometimes people come to her salon and
say: "My god, you look like Zlatan!" and she always answers: "Bullshit, he looks like me." She's tough. But
none of us have had an easy ride. My dad, Sefik, moved from Hards road in Rosengard to Varnhems
squre in Malmo in 1991, and you have understood this - he's got a big heart, he's prepared to die for us.
But things didn't turn out the way I had expected. I knew him as weekend-dad who got us hamburgers
and ice cream.
Now we were to share every day and I noticed immediately: it was empty at his place. Something was
missing, maybe a woman. There was a TV set, a sofa, a book shelf, and two beds. But nothing extra, no
comfort, no well-being, and there were beer cans on the tables and trash on the floor, and sometimes
when he got going and started wallpapering, he'd only do one wall. "I'll do the rest tomorrow!" But it never
happened, and we also moved a lot, and never really got settled anywhere. But it was also empty in
Dad was a caretaker with the worst working hours and when he came home with work pants with all
those pockets with screwdrivers and things he'd sit down by the phone or the TV, and didn't want to be
bothered. He was in his own world, and often with headphones listening to Yugoslavian folk music. He's
crazy about Yugo music. He's recorded some tapes himself. He's a showman when he's in the right
mood. But most of the time he was in his own world and if my friends called he'd hiss at them:
"Don't call here!"
I couldn't take my friends there and if they had asked for me I never found out. The phone wasn't
important to me, and I had no one to speak with at home really, or, well, when there was something
serious, dad was there for me. Then he could do anything for me, run downtown with his cocky style
trying to settle stuff.
He had a way of walking which made people go, like "Who the fuck is that?" But he didn't care about all
the normal stuff, what happened in school, in football and with friends, so I had to talk to myself or get
outside. Sapko, my half-brother, lived with us during the first time, and sure I must have talked with him
sometimes, he must have been seventeen then. But I don't remember much of it, and soon my dad would
throw him out. They had some horrible fights. That's also a sad thing of course and it was only me and
dad left. We were alone on our own sides, so to say, because the strange thing was that he didn't have
any friends coming visit either. He was sitting by himself drinking. There was no company. But most of all,
there was no food.
I was outdoors most of the time playing football and riding stolen bikes, and I would often come home
hungry as a wolf and open the fridge thinking: Please, please, let there be something! But no, nothing,
just the usual stuff: milk, butter, some bread, and if I was lucky some juice, Multivitamin, the 4 liter pack,
bought at the Arabian store because they were the cheapest, and beer of course, Pripps Bla and
Carlsberg, six-packs with that plastic wrap around them. Sometimes there was only beer, and my
stomach was screaming for food. There was a pain in that which I'll never forget. Ask Helena! I always
say that the fridge has to be jam-packed. That will never change. The other day my kid, Vincent, cried,
because he didn't get his pasta, but it was already cooking on the stove. The guy was yelling because he
didn't get his food quick enough so I wanted to scream: If you only knew how well your life is!
I could search every drawer, every corner, for one single macaroni or a meatball. I could fill my stomach
with toast. I could eat a whole loaf of bread, or I'd run over to mom's place. I wasn't always welcomed with
open arms. It was more like "Fuck, is Zlatan coming too? Doesn't Sefik feed him? And sometimes she'd
yell at me: Are we made of money? Are you gonna eat us out on the street? But still, we helped each
other, and at dad's place I started a little war against the beer. I poured out some of them in the sink, not
all of them, that would have been too obvious, but a few.
He rarely noticed anything. There was beer everywhere, on the tables, in the shelves, and often I'd collect
the empty cans in big black plastic trash bags and went to recycle them. I'd get 50 ore per can. Still I'd
sometimes collect 50 or 100 kronor [ed note: that's 100 or 200 cans]. That was a lot of cans and I was
happy for the cash. But of course, it was a sad thing, and like all kids in a situation like that, I'd learn to
read his mood. I knew exactly when I could talk to him. The day after he'd been drinking it was quite cool.
Second day was worse. In some situations he could strike like lightning. Other times he was incredibly
generous. Gave me five hundred kronor just like that. At that time I was collecting football pictures. You'd