A Bet too Hard: Swedish Soccer Star Ibrahimovic Faces Ban after Gambling Investments
Legendary Swedish soccer player Zlatan Ibrahimovic may have run afoul of FIFA (soccer’s global governing body) rules on gambling investments for players in their international tournaments, reports Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet.
The six-foot-five and highly outspoken forward is one of the most recognizable faces in world soccer.
That recognition seems to have put his international soccer return in trouble. Since retiring from international football in 2016, the goalscoring ace has appeared in adverts for (and owns 10% of) Maltese online casino and sports betting operator Bethard.
FIFA rules on gambling investments may thus see him banned from competing for his native Sweden at the European Championships later this year.
Ibrahimovic has been a prolific forward player for AC Milan, Barcelona, Manchester United, LA Galaxy, and a few more throughout his 23-year career.
He has scored over 500 professional club goals in his time, including many show-reel highlights – such as this unbelievable goal for LA Galaxy, which was voted the greatest ever in the MLS.
However, this latest story is a bit of an own goal for the superstar striker.
At 39 years old, Ibrahimovic had set his sights on an international return at the European Football Championships in 2021.
This would likely be his last international tournament with his native Sweden.
However, since previously retiring from the Swedish national team in 2016, Ibrahimovic has regularly worked with online casinos and betting companies in various markets.
One such project saw his investment company Unknown AB purchase a 10% stake in Malta-based online casino and sports betting site Bethard.
Figures revealed by the Swedish media show that Zlatan’s investments in Bethard made his Unknown AB $35.5 million in 2019 alone.
It has been confirmed that several international games that Zlatan has participated in were available to bet on at Bethard – an even more direct contradiction of FIFA rules.
Code of Ethics
Ibrahimovic’s association with Bethard has been publicly available knowledge since it started in 2018.
At the time, there was speculation that the multi-million-dollar contract was the reason he did not return to the national team for the 2018 World Cup.
“According to FIFA’s regulations and code of ethics, no player may directly or indirectly own shares in betting companies”Swedish Football Association General Secretary Hakan Sjostrand
“I stick to the facts and can only account for what applies to all nations and players who will participate in the European Championships” he finished.
It seems he and his team, and possibly the Swedish FA, were happy to forget about the rules for Sweden’s World Cup Qualifier against Georgia in March, in which Ibrahimovic played the full 90 minutes.
This breach could land the soccer ace a $1 million fine and a three-year competitive ban.
Although FIFA rules don’t explicitly apply to all global competitions, a three-year ban at the age of 39 would almost certainly end Zlatan’s competitive career.
The player has not commented on the story as of yet. However, Bethard CEO Erik Sharp did comment the following to the UK’s Daily Mail newspaper:
“These are questions that should be asked to FIFA” he said.
“We have an agreement with Zlatan that we follow and if problems arise, we will handle it together with him” he finished.
Gambling sponsorships are ubiquitous in European soccer tournaments. Many British fans want to see less of them, as we reported last year, but some US companies are keen to bring them to American sports teams.
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