Hello Moms and dads! Here’s a bedtime story for your little ones ! Happy ending guaranteed!
Once upon a time, (October 3rd, 1981) a baby boy was born in Sweden a place where the sun shines even after midnight, but also it can disappear for several months. The winter is bitter cold, for this country is one of the nearest to North Pole, Father’s Christmas legendary home.
Nevertheless for the newborn, Father Christmas would never come; no presents for the son of poor migrants! His Bosnian father and his Croatian mother, came to Sweden hoping to live a better life,(thus naming their firstborn “Zlatan= Golden“), but instead they were stranded in Rosengärd, the infamous “Ghetto of Sweden,”a place where lived immigrants mainly from Eastern Europe and Middle East.
Official statics say that “at least” 86% of Rosengärd residents were of foreign origin, the unemployment rate up to 60% and that 71% of the children were living in relative poverty. School results were among the worst in the country and the crime rate, one of the highest.(Official stats 2008/2012)
This was the place where the newborn Zlatan had to grow up; what a start in life, one might say, but the worst was yet to come. Two years later, his parents divorced and the toddler was left in his mother’s care, but as she worked often fourteen hours a day, Zlatan had to take care of himself and survive in their rough neighbourhood, like an outsider depending only on his owjn ability, lost in a parallel world, miles away from Sweden’s world known perfect social and economic success.
Living with Jurka his mother, wasn’t always easy; she was the kind of person who exhausted by long working hours wanted to spend a calm refreshing evening at home, without having to cope with Zlatan, his brother Aleksandar and his sister Sanela, both of them born from a former marriage. But children are and always be children, meaning making noise, crying and generally being a nuisance. A wooden spoon took care of this: she was hitting them so hard, that sometimes when the spoon was broken on their hides, the children had to buy another one, for it was of course their own fault.
When social services decided that it wasn’t a healthy environment for a young child, Zlatan was sent to live with his father Sefik, a caretaker very much affected by the war in Bosnia, but according to his son”he had a big heart”.
Living with his father, it wasn’t easy either: one day Zlatan fell from the kinder garden’s roof, got a black eye and went running home, expecting a cuddle and some kind words. Alas it didn’t happen; his father was furious and slapped him for he shouldn’t have climbed on the roof ; one might wonder what hurt more: the fall or the slap?
Was Sefic a bad father? he was very much affected by the war in his native country and spent hours drinking, listening “Yugo-music” and the war’s latest news. He surely wasn’t an open-book person, but when Zlatan fell ill, he carried the young boy into the street, hailed a taxi and asked the cab driver to break all conceivable traffic rules to get them to the hospital; it turned out that his son had meningitis! Sefic had a fierce temperament and taught his son to be tough and stand up for himself, for life was not easy for people like them.
Zlatan was growing fast and the boy needed plenty of food to get him going, but in his father’s house cupboards there was nothing but a “healthy” provision of beer. No meatballs or macaroni for the hungry teenager! There was food in his mother’s house but she wasn’t keen to watch her son empty the cupboards and raiding the refrigerator; so when she was at home, the boy was out, hungry or not !
Did this kind of life unsettled the boy ? He sure had problems in school, like hitting with a ball his gym teacher( his father refused the school’s proposition to seek psychiatric help) and problems too outside, for to survive in those surroundings was so hard, that stealing was the only way.
Zlatan stole; no, he didn’t rob old ladies, banks or cars. He stole food and other necessities but when someone stole his beloved bike, then he stole another one to replace it!
When he wasn’t causing trouble at school, or stealing bikes, Zlatan was playing football; at first he was keen on playing hockey but the equipment was too expensive, so football won. It was a welcome change from school where a speech coach came especially for him, just to teach him how to pronounce the letter S (due to his big nose and lisp).The young boy was not only infuriated but also humiliated cos as many outsiders he wanted to be treated like the other children.
So, he played football, he even played incessantly! He joined his first club, Malmö Boll Och at the age of six. He also played in the small gravel pitch outside his mother’s appartement block and as he was a skinny and weak kid, he learned to move his feet quickly and find tricks to avoid getting clattered by the older boys.As he grew older his ability and stature changed for the better. But his “tricks” displeased several parents and Zlatan left for another club FBK Balkan, where he had a better time but not when he tried to be a goalkeeper !
His talent saw him move, aged 15 to the Youth’s Academy of Malmö FF, a Swedish top division, club. Leaving his birth place for another town, so much different and a club where he quickly understood that “once from Rosenberg, always from Rösenberg” wasn’t just words, for many parents of that posh club, wanted him out! He surely was so out of place, a mole between well behaved, well dressed people who lived in nice houses and knew nothing about the Rösenberg’s born battle for survival.
They soon knew though, for the“Migrant” overcame his handicap(s?) and became rich, respected and famous ! He has now a family, a wife, two sons who love football as much as their father and enough money to live happily ever after !
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