Sports Opinion

Winning returns

January 15 - 21 , 2020

Gulf Weekly Winning returns

Returning to something you love is always a nice feeling. It can be big or small in terms of importance, maybe even just returning home after work to that favourite chair that no one would ever actually claim ownership of, yet it goes without saying that it’s yours when you’re there. Last weekend, Zlatan Ibrahimovic returned to AC Milan colours and scored, whilst Serena Williams returned to her winning ways in the Auckland Classic for her first title in three years and her first since becoming a mother.

For Ibrahimovic it has been a strange few months. The Swedish superstar left LA Galaxy at the end of the MLS season last year and had been a free agent until December when former employers AC Milan offered him a six-month deal. In the intervening period, Ibrahimovic’s hometown club, Malmo FF, built a statue of him which he declared that it was for “everyone out there who doesn’t feel welcome.” 

You can’t help but appreciate the irony in the fact that the statue was initially defaced, had the nose cut off and eventually was snapped by the ankles and pulled down before being branded as the most unwanted statue in Malmos history. In fairness, it was not without reason. Shortly after unveiling the statue, Ibrahimovic invested into rival club Hammarby IF and vowed to make them the “biggest in Scandinavia.”  I would suggest that an attitude that conveys the idea that you are doing a football club a favour by having a statue of yourself outside, before giving your money to their rivals would go a long way to explaining why Ibrahimovic may not have always felt so welcome.

By his own admission, to score again for AC Milan made him “feel alive” and to be adding to an impressive first stint at the club; 42 goals in 61 league games must be a form of relief for the world’s most confident footballer. With Milan lagging behind in the race for European football, the return of Ibrahimovic along with a win, their first since early December, against top half rivals Cagliari might be the best thing for both parties.

Meanwhile, Williams’ absence from the top table of tennis over the last three years is an entirely understandable one. Williams won her first WTA title in February 1999 when she beat France’s Amelie Mauresmo on carpet at the Open Gaz de France and amassed a huge 72 WTA titles. She also achieved 23 grand slams before the competition started in Auckland and will be chasing a record equalling her 24th grand slam when she competes in the Australian open later this month.

Since giving birth to her daughter, Olympia, Williams has fallen just short on a number of occasions including both the Wimbledon and US Open finals in 2018 and 2019. Much like Ibrahimovic, as Williams comes closer towards the end of her career, there was a suggestion that maybe she didn’t have what it takes to go all the way anymore.

Her return to winning ways may go a good way to proving them wrong. Her dominance over the past two decades will mean that she would go down as an icon in tennis history and I personally hope that she can go on and beat Margret Courts’ record of 24 grand slams. Her actions off the court, including donating all of her winnings to charity from the last win, will mean she will go down as one of the most memorable sports people to have existed, regardless of whether she even wins another point.

The feel-good factor of a triumphant return should not be underestimated. I look forward to writing about whether any of my hopes for Williams come to fruition in what is the most unanticipated return of the lot!

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