Early Doors

Zlatan’s stunning gesture realises World Cup dream for team

Early Doors

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Sweden's national team for players with learning difficulties couldn't afford to go to their World Cup. Enter Zlatan.

When Sweden's national team for players with learning difficulties qualified for their World Cup, it should have been cause for celebration. Especially after the full national side had fallen at the final hurdle in their own bid to reach Brazil, losing to Portugal in a European play-off.

Instead, financial constraints meant any celebrations were muted - the team could not afford the cost of going to Brazil for the INAS World Football Championship.

Various players were contacted and asked to donate shirts or boots in a bid to raise the requisite money. The likes of Johan Elmander, Andreas Isaksson, Per Nilsson and Kim Kallstrom all duly obliged, but their fund raising efforts were still falling short.

All the team's hard work during the qualification campaign was in danger of coming to nothing. Until Zlatan Ibrahimovic was also asked to donate a playing jersey.

But as usual, Ibrahimovic decided to do things a little differently. The Paris Saint Germain striker refused to offer a shirt, instead digging into his own pockets to stump up the remaining cash that will enable the team to realise a dream.

Assistant coach Stefan Jonsson said: "I spoke to Zlatan and asked if he could donate a shirt and he said, 'what the hell are you going with a shirt? How much is it to go?' When we said that we need to SEK 350,000, he asked for the account number and he deposited it.

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“It’s unbelievable, incredible, fantastic. I still have to pinch myself to believe it’s true. Thanks to Zlatan a life-long dream will soon become reality for all of us involved.”

That amounts to about £30,000 which admittedly is a drop in the ocean for a player on Ibrahimovic's wages, but nevertheless represents a significant gesture from the striker.

It wasn't a difficult decision for him to make.

"Football should be played by anyone, regardless of gender, disability or not", Ibrahimovic said. "When we missed out on the World Cup, I was deeply disappointed, but when I heard about 'the unknown team' I said to myself that I wanted to do everything in my power to help them to experience the World Cup.

"There was nothing to think about. It was a given."

Much like Ibra's status as a national hero in Sweden.

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