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It appears vandals have taken at least a temporary victory in their quest to sideline the statue of soccer great Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
After numerous attempts over the last couple months, vandals toppled Ibrahimovic’s statue outside the stadium of his former team in Malmo, Sweden. The statue was found knocked over around 3:30 a.m. local time Sunday after being cut off at the feet. According to BBC Sport, the words “take away” were spray painted on the statue and a Sweden soccer T-shirt was placed over its head.
The statue was unveiled in October to much fanfare, but the mood in Ibrahimovic’s hometown soured when the former Galaxy star bought a 25% ownership stake in one of the team’s rivals, Hammarby, in November. Ibrahimovic later said he wanted to help make Stockholm-based Hammarby “the best in Scandinavia,” a statement that triggered near-constant attacks on the statue. After vandals attempted to set fire to the 10-foot statue and wrote racist graffiti on it, authorities erected a fence around it and hired security guards to keep watch. Last month, vandals made deep cuts around the statue’s ankles and cut off the nose.
Vandals also went to Ibrahimovic’s property in central Stockholm in November, writing the word “Judas” on the front door and reportedly pouring “surstromming” — a foul-smelling fermented herring that is a staple in Swedish cuisine — in the home’s doorway.
Former Malmo player and coach Jens Fjellstrom called Ibrahimovic’s support of Hammarby “a declaration of war” against Malmo. Kaveh Hosseinpour, vice chairman of Malmo’s official supporters’ group, said he believed the statue should be relocated to Stockholm. A spokesperson with Malmo’s soccer club said it plans to return the statue to its original spot outside the team’s stadium once it has been repaired.
Ibrahimovic, who turned pro with Malmo in 1999, played the last two seasons with the Galaxy before signing with Italian club AC Milan last month. In his 21 months with the Galaxy, Ibrahimovic led the team back to the playoffs after a two-year absence. He scored 53 goals in 58 games and ended his MLS tenure in bold fashion by declaring on Twitter, “I came, I saw, I conquered.”
For now, it appears Malmo’s die-hard supporters are determined not to let Ibrahimovic loom over them any longer.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.