I have always had a passion for football (or, in the United States, soccer); growing up, I followed both the European and World Cups with utmost concentration and dedication and continue to do so today. Taking this course has made me realize the large extent to which non-natives play an integral part in national teams. For instance, members of the French national football team originate from Mali, Senegal, Algeria, and so forth. Thierry Henry and Zinédine Zidane are only two examples of the most notable football players in French history, with their native lands being different from France. This diversity manifests itself most dramatically during the World Cup, where commentators often dig in to the immigration history of notable players and key athletes that constitute each team.
One of my favorite players of all time is Zlatan Ibrahimovic, a forward for AC Milan, a highly successful and popular club team in Milan, Italy. Ibrahimovic was born and fully raised in Sweden, and plays for the Swedish football team, of which he is their captain. His father is from Bosnia, and his mother is from Croatia; the two emigrated (separately) to Sweden and Ibrahimovic was raised in one of the typical immigrant neighborhoods in Rosengard.
Sweden has a rather relaxed immigration policy (in comparison to other nations), and has thus seen a substantial amount of new members, who originate from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. Rosengard is a clear host to these incoming people, and the community is home to criminality and lacks job opportunities.
Football is a very popular sport in Sweden, and the national team qualifies for the World Cup nearly every four years. Although Ibrahimovic is arguably one of the most successful and talented Swedish football players of all time, he has been often criticized, due to his (unintentional) representation of the population of immigrants in Sweden. Due to rising number of immigrants in Sweden, there is surmounting tension between them and ethnic Swedes. Thus, Ibrahimovic has come to symbolize the current (although relatively mild in comparison to other nations) racial tension in Sweden today.
Cultural Studies discusses the globalization of culture, and Appadurai discerns five dimensions of cultural flows that indicate the large interconnectedness of our world in his article, “Disjuncture and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy.” Of particular relevance to my research is that of the ethnoscape; due to the emergent fluidity and opportunity of travel, it has become more and more easy to travel from country to country. As the Rosengard community can attest, immigration to a more accepting and politically stable environment is proving to be viable to those who have the money (Ibrahimovic’s parents immigrated in 1977, during a time of Communist government in Bosnia and Herzegovina). It will be intriguing to learn about the ways in which Ibrahimovic, as a marker of a transnational element in football, has shaped the ways in which ethnic Swedes regard their immigrant population.
An example of Ibrahimovic’s talent:
Appadurai, Arjun. “Disjuncture and difference in the global cultural economy 1990.” Cultural Theory: An Anthology (2011): 282-295.
“Zlatan Ibrahimovic Bio, Stats, News – Football / Soccer – – ESPN FC.” Soccer / Football News and Scores – ESPN FC. Web. 6 Mar. 2013.