The Premier League is today brimming with pride as one of its own stands a chance to win the famed John Wayne Gold Medal of Humanity. This prestigious award has gone almost exclusively to actors and politicians in recent years but there is a strong feeling among the bookies that Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be wearing the famed gold and purple ribbon come December.
Ibrahimovic is not the only nominee from the football category, with previous Premier League regulars Christiano Ronaldo and Mario Balotelli also among the list of hopefuls but on recent form alone, the Swede seems to have the edge. This, despite the fact that fellow nominees also include US presidential candidates Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton as well as the ever-dangerous Kanye West and Kim Kardashian.
The Medal of Humanity has been in existence since John Wayne awarded it to himself early in 1964. Since then the actor took the prize home a record fifteen times and once more, posthumously, in 1980.
The award prides itself as being as unique as its nominees. As Schmit van Fehr, General Spokesperson of the Executive for The John Wayne Medal of Humanity Organisation explains, ‘The John Wayne is the only award of its kind in existence today. It celebrates the astonishing self-focus and inner concern of humanity in the context of a team or greater group of individuals.’ I think we can all agree that as far as ‘self-focus’ is concerned, Zlatan is a master.
At 1.95m with his trademark moustache, tightly secured hair, ponytail and waxy scowl, Zlatan Ibrahimovic is immediately recognisable to football fans around the world. Renowned for being an exponent of the school of natural talent rather than work ethic or team chemistry, Ibrahimovic continues to play at the top level, even while entering his mid thirties- a time normally associated with retirement for weaker, less proficient players.
A quick glance at the history of the man is breath taking. Ibrahimovic has a contract with the gods of football that states he will only play for the biggest clubs in Europe. So far, the list includes Ajax Amsterdam, Juventus, Inter Milan, Barcelona, AC Milan and PSG. Most recently, Zlatan has added his name to the back of a Manchester United shirt, introducing his distinctive soloist-with-an-orchestra style to the English game.
In the Premier League, the swede has made the role of loping, lonely striker his own. Rather than busy himself with team play, assists and defensive duties, Ibrahimovic advances, attacks and stands ahead of his peers, reminding us that the sport is not merely about physical exertion and skill or the advertising and branding opportunities- it is about him.
Ibrahimovic’s performance statistics since arriving in Manchester make for interesting reading. In his first four games, he scored four times, but has since scored just one goal in nine games. Most recently the striker helped his new club to a goalless draw against Burnley. With his high quality and world-class misses at Old Trafford on Saturday, Ibrahimovic was central to guiding his team to eight points from the top of the table.
If the rumours are true, Zlatan will be adding the John Wayne Gold Medal of Humanity to his enormous trophy cabinet very soon. With the likes of Donald Trump and wildcard entry Nigel Farage also vying for glory, this result is by no means a foregone conclusion. As a seasoned professional, Ibrahimovic will not be fazed by the pressure around the announcement of the winner- with his characteristic attitude and dedication to himself- his provocative, unlikeable and olive-skinned flair- not showing any sign of slowing, he will win it when he decides that the time is right to do so.