In part one of our interview with Zlatan Ibrahimović ahead of his return to Malmö with Paris Saint-Germain, he discusses his upbringing in the city and his rise through the ranks.
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In part one of our interview with Zlatan Ibrahimović ahead of his return to Malmö with Paris Saint-Germain on Wednesday, the Sweden forward discusses his upbringing in the city, being a role model to immigrants, and how he continues to stay in touch with his old community.
UEFA.com: Recently we spoke to Henrik Larsson who said you have "fought and opened the door for many and given hope to those from different backgrounds". Are you proud of this perception and do you feel extra pressure in being a role model?
Zlatan Ibrahimović: When it comes from someone called Henrik Larsson, I'll take it! Absolutely! I do feel that I have opened some doors for those with different backgrounds, and I explain everything in my book. The road I've taken and everything I have gone through ... you don't have to be like everyone else. You can be different and still succeed. I'm living proof of it. I'm very proud. Absolutely. It means that I've done something for those who view themselves as different. I feel proud and positive about it. It gets validated when others succeed as well. Not just in football, but in everything.
UEFA.com: On Wednesday you return to Malmö. What will your emotions be when you take to the pitch against the team where it all began for you?
Ibrahimović: It will be great. That's where everything began. It's where I was raised. Meeting them in the Champions League couldn't possibly be any greater. It feels very surreal. It's within reach now, and I'm going to do everything I can to enjoy myself when I step onto the field. Everyone else should enjoy it too, because I don't think it will happen again in football. Not when it comes to an individual player who has been on a journey like mine, who then gets to return to the city where it all started. I'll cherish it. It'll be a day to remember.
UEFA.com: You have consistently played at the highest level throughout your career. How important were those early years at Malmö for your development?
Ibrahimović: Extremely important. That's where everything started. That's where I told myself: "Either I'll do this for real or just waste my time for a while," and that was a decision I made when I was playing in the MFF junior team. They gave me a chance to show what I could do, and I took it. Even if it was hard considering where I came from, my name, my background, I fought hard. I had to be better than everyone else to succeed ...
UEFA.com: You were raised in the Malmo suburb of Rosengard, can you tell us about your upbringing and how important football was to you back then?
Ibrahimović: Football meant everything. We played football every day, at school, at home, everywhere. Before practising football, we played football. After practising football, we played football. It was constant. A lot of football. We had a pitch in the middle of the courtyard, and that's where everything happened. It felt like it was more important to perform there than at the club. We played a lot of football there with friends and people who came from other areas to challenge us. A lot happened there.
UEFA.com: You paid for a five-a-side football pitch to be built in the area you grew up. How important is the sense of community to you?
Ibrahimović: It's important not to forget where you come from. I have moved onto another level, the highest level, but I can't forget where I came from, and you always have to give something back. We have grown apart a bit as old friends, but I am still in contact with everyone who played an important role in my life during that time. I know who and where they are. If I were to see them today, it would take me right back to those teenage years when we played together, and I don't think there's a risk I'll ever forget them, but I have to make a conscious effort to give back to my community. That's what I try to do at every opportunity.
For more from Ibrahimović, including how he has booked out Malmo's main square for a big screen to show Wednesday's match, how he has proved those who doubted him wrong and Paris's ambitions for the season, there will be a second video on Tuesday.