Could this one event mark an end to his illustrious career? Zlatan Ibrahimovic is no stranger to controversies, and the 39-year-old is once again in the eye of a storm following reports that he had a partnership with a Malta-based betting company. His association with Bethard, a gambling site with offices registered in Malta, may invite a ban of up to three years and bring curtains down on his career.Citing Swedish media reports, Daily Mail said Unknown AB, the company owned by Sweden and AC Milan striker, owns 10 percent shares in Bethard. The Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet reports that Unknown AB is the fourth-largest owner in Bethard, which made a profit after tax of 25.79m pounds, according to the latest available annual report in 2019.
Not just that, the report also said that Swedish Football Association was in the know of the issue and hence had decided against calling him back to the national side for the 2018 football world cup. Ibrahimovic had announced his retirement from international football following an early exit from the UEFA Euro 2016, but he got a call back last month.
His deal with the betting company is also said to be under a close FIFA and UEFA watch and could well get him a three-year ban or a very hefty sum as fine, the report said. FIFA and UEFA, the two strongest football bodies in the world, do not permit players with financial interests in gambling companies to take part in their competitions.
The star striker featured in the Swedish side when they played the World Cup qualifier against Georgia in March and may have violated the FIFA code.
In 2018, Ibrahimovic was announced as the brand ambassador and co-owner of Bethard. Back then, he said that betting companies had throughout his career tried to court him, but he was never presented with anything that triggered him.
“With Bethard, there was something different. It’s a company with Swedish roots, the founders are from my home town and they are true challengers who really want to do things differently," he said.
While FIFA rules clearly state that any violation will invite a punishment by a fine and a possible suspension from all football-related activities for a maximum of three years, UEFA’s regulations are a little less clear when it comes to penalty. A three-year ban by FIFA could very well end the career of a player who turns 40 in October.
General secretary of the Swedish Football Association Hakan Sjjstrand earlier this week said that he didn’t want to speculate on possible sanctions.
“But of course continue to push for clarity in Fifa’s regulations as there is frankly a lot of ambiguity in how it should be interpreted," he said.