Dec. 3, 2018

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Why I Wrote It

After each story, you'll receive a note from the writer. This is from Mike Piellucci, about "Four Facts About Zlatan Ibrahimovic."

This piece happened because I wanted to write about one of my favourite athletes in the moment, while his playing career was still ongoing.

That’s the short answer. The longer one concerns fandom itself and why I harbour such an affection for Ibrahimovic as opposed to, say, Lionel Messi. There’s something of a one-liner for that, too—he once scored a lot of goals for my favourite club, Inter Milan—but the real reason has more to do with Ibrahimovic’s surroundings than the man himself. The crux of this piece concerns Zlatan’s uniqueness and while some of his quirks are inherent to him—@ me the next time your favourite player nicknames himself God—many more stand out relative to the times he plays in. Ibrahimovic’s world is one of over-exhaustive analysis whittling away at the secrecies of sports until they’re solved games, of efficiency steamrolling artistry, of athletes delivering anodyne quotes in response to exhausted “talk about”-isms from the people covering them, of the same clubs dominating the tops of tables. There’s still plenty of joy and wonder to be found; it’s still sports, after all. But it’s a more homogenous place than it used to be. It’s a more defined one.

Ibrahimovic stands out, then, because of the air of mystery that still accompanies him. There’s no real understanding how he does the things he does, or why he says the things he says, or his meandering career arc, or where his story might end. He is delightfully unsolvable, in a time when I find myself wishing sports better lent themselves to the opaque and bizarre.

Zlatan won’t be around that much longer and there’s no telling who might take up that mantle, largely because it may not be anyone else interested in it. It’s easier to blend in than be an iconoclast. So celebrate him loudly and perhaps even a little too much. It’s the best possible tribute to someone this out-sized. That, or buying an entire hotel.

Mike Piellucci

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