The criticism aimed at Zlatan Ibrahimovic for trash-talking Real Salt Lake defender Nedum Onuoha is misguided
Zlatan Ibrahimovic needed to get going. The star striker was in the midst of a lackluster performance, and with his team locked in a 1-1 tie against Real Salt Lake, he decided it was time to talk some trash to the biggest defender on the other team. A few minutes later he scored the winning goal, turning to the big defender and screaming at his vanquished foe.
The moment would have come and gone without much attention if the defender in question, Nedum Onouha, didn’t proceed to bash Ibrahimovic in post-game interviews for behavior he deemed to be thuggish. Onuoha didn’t take kindly to the Swedish attacker saying he would injure Onuoha, so when Ibrahimovic showed up in the RSL locker room to shake hands after the match, the former Manchester City defender rejected the peace offering, deciding instead to rail on his opponent’s behavior and the perceived star treatment he receives.
While you can certainly argue that visiting the visiting team’s locker room after an emotionally-charged match wasn’t the best idea, the notion that Ibrahimovic did something wrong by engaging in mental warfare with an opponent during a professional soccer match is a head scratcher. Trash talking isn’t something all players are into — and is clearly not something Onuoha is a fan of — but to label Ibrahimovic a thug for talking trash to an opponent was the type of pearl-clutching you don’t generally see from 6-foot-2 defenders the size of a heavyweight boxer.
The former Manchester United striker isn’t everybody’s cup of tea — and that reality was made clear in the wake of this latest incident, as evidenced by the waves of condemnation of Ibrahimovic’s behavior, and the support for Onuoha “standing up for himself” and not taking his enemy’s abuse.
Only he did take the abuse, and did give up the winning goal shortly after Ibrahimovic started jawing at him. The 37-year-old set out to motivate himself by trash-talking an opponent and it worked, so how exactly did Onuoha win? More importantly, how did Ibrahimovic do anything wrong? Onuoha mentioned some physical contact as well, but he received a yellow card for that. Should the referee have also issued a yellow card for harsh language?
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