Founded in 2008, FC Ibra Göteborg lifted their maiden Swedish futsal championship this year to qualify for their first UEFA Futsal Cup. Those indoor achievements may have flown under the radar of many football fans, though the team name should ring a bell. "I asked Zlatan [Ibrahimović] if we could use the name and he was okay with it," Eddy Lopez told UEFA.com.
Co-founder of the Gothenburg futsal club, Lopez is also their coach and player. In his youth, the 33-year old was one of Sweden's most promising footballers, turning out for Gothenburg sides Gunnilse IS and Västra Frölunda IF and regularly representing Sweden at youth level.
That was in the late 1990s, when a friendship blossomed with another of Swedish football's young lights – current Sweden captain Zlatan Ibrahimović. The two remain friends despite the different paths their careers have taken – differences that Lopez is keen to downplay: "We're going to play in Europe, just like Zlatan does. It's going to be a lot of fun."
FC Ibra's history books make for a short but fascinating read. Lacking motivation, Lopez hung up his outdoor boots in 2008, yet having always enjoyed the indoor game he and some pals from football set about forming a futsal team. One of the group suggested the name FC Ibra, and on a trip to Italy to visit Ibrahimović, the man himself gave Lopez his consent.
The Paris Saint-Germain FC striker also approved the club crest: a silhouette of his lobbed back heel for Sweden against Italy at UEFA EURO 2004. That is where Ibrahimović's involvement ends, however, despite FC Ibra's website listing him as club president. "My brother put that up just for fun," said Lopez. "Zlatan is really not involved in any other way than letting us use his name, although he does check on our progress now and then."
The six-time Swedish Footballer of the Year can be pleased with the progress of his namesake, as FC Ibra clinched the Swedish futsal trophy in February. According to Lopez, that was always the plan. "Our ambition from the very beginning was to reach the top. We knew we had quality players, plus the sport was quite new in Sweden too, so it seemed within reach."
FC Ibra now go into the UEFA Futsal Cup seeking to emulate the success of club muse Ibrahimović. The Gothenburg outfit are determined to dream big, despite Lopez admitting to having "no idea" about their potential opponents. "It's all new to us," he said. "But we're not going there to make up the numbers. We want to get results." Ibra – a championship winner in the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain – would certainly concur.
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