Zlatan Ibrahimovic sparks gender debate with controversial comments

Swedish striker says ‘you can’t compare men’s and women’s football’

Paris Saint-Germain’s Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic: “I was asked in the summer who was the better player, me or Lotta Schelin. You’re joking with me, right?”  Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/Afp/Getty

Paris Saint-Germain’s Swedish forward Zlatan Ibrahimovic: “I was asked in the summer who was the better player, me or Lotta Schelin. You’re joking with me, right?” Photo: Kenzo Tribouillard/Afp/Getty

Fri, Dec 27, 2013, 01:00

Players in the men’s national football team deserve to get more recognition than their female counterparts in Sweden and people should stop whipping up a gender storm about it, striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic has said.

His comments have sparked disappointment from Pia Sundhage, the coach of the Swedish women’s national team, who branded them ‘boring’ and ‘sad’.

Ibrahimovic spoke out after his country’s FA was slammed for presenting midfielder Anders Svensson with a new Volvo for breaking Thomas Ravelli’s record of 143 international caps.

However, when women’s midfielder Therese Sjogran failed to get similar recognition at the same football gala despite earning a record 187 caps, the move was widely criticised.

“With all respect for what the ladies have done, and they’ve done it fantastically well, you can’t compare men’s and women’s football. Give it up, it’s not even funny,” the Paris Saint-Germain striker said in an interview with the Expressen newspaper.

“When I come out in Europe they compare me to Messi and Ronaldo. When I come home they compare me to a female player. With all respect for the ladies, they should be rewarded in relation to what they generate.

“I was asked in the summer who was the better player, me or Lotta Schelin. You’re joking with me, right? When I’ve broken all these records, this goal record, the goals in the national team, who shall I compare it to? Shall I compare it to whoever has the record, or the ladies?”

Sundhage responded by saying Ibrahimovic’s viewpoint “betrays ... male football’s values”. She told STV that it was “boring and sad for Swedish football when a team captain speaks in such terms.

“I understand him when he says the men’s squad pulls in more money and exposure. But it’s still about respect, we’re doing the same stuff: it’s football.”