Editor’s Note: The following story is satirical — it’s not true. Zlatan is coming to play Sunday, but none of the following events are happening, and none of the following quotes are authentic.
We never thought it would happen. Minnesota United plays Ibrahimovic’s LA Galaxy on Sunday in the Loons’ final game of the 2018 season, but until recently, the Swedish superstar was not expected to play. Like many of Major League Soccer’s aging stars, the assumption was that Zlatan would cite TCF Bank Stadium’s turf as a reason not to play.
A spot in the playoffs is on the line for the Galaxy, but that’s not why Zlatan’s coming. It’s a charity mission:
Zlatan tells media that he'll be available for #MINvLA where a crowd of 50k+ is expected— Adam Serrano (@AdamSerrano) October 18, 2018
"I owe them to come. Obviously, they don't have this crowd every home game, so I'm sure they're not coming for Minnesota. So, I come and I make them enjoy."
With Zlatan’s status for Sunday’s match as certain as can be until lineups are announced, several promotions were announced.
Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton held a press conference Thursday morning, formally announcing Sunday as “Zlatan Day in Minnesota.”
“Zlatan Ibrahimovic is the greatest soccer player alive. It is an honor for him to touch the ground of our lowly state, so we must do everything we can to insure his time here is memorable,” the governor said in a prepared statement.
Dayton did not comment on reports that he will be hosting Zlatan for a formal dinner and red carpet ceremony.
A member of Minnesota United’s marketing department revealed the club’s strategy behind drawing 50,000 fans for Sunday’s game. “Of course we were trying to bring him in,” the representative said. “#50kToMidway was never about a record. Zlatan means more than any super-specific record could.”
The club is expected to roll out a new social media campaign, dubbed #50kForZLA, sometime in the next couple of days.
Local businesses are also hoping to capitalize on the star’s presence in the state. Three hotels, including a Bemidji bed and breakfast, have already been shut down for false claims that the Galaxy will be staying there.
Even though the visiting team will be staying in a luxury setting, an Airbnb spokeswoman confirmed that the company has seen a 3% rise in availability this weekend, perhaps an indicator that many wish to invite Zlatan into their home.
Betty Smith, 74, of Minnetonka posted an update to her neighborhood Facebook group offering Ibrahimovic a tater-tot hotdish, should he find himself hungry during his stay.
One Minnesota supporter appeared to be close to tears when considering the possibility of Zlatan playing on Sunday. “The fact that he considers our humble team to be worthy of humiliation by him is just too much,” he said. “I think I’ll shakily record the entire match and post it to my Snapchat story so that everyone can see a grainy little Zlatan running around.”
A member of the Minnesota United front office was also excited to see the star play. “I’ve given out my fair share of passing grades,” he explained. “So I know what extra credit looks like when I see it. I thought we might need a decent team to draw fans to the stadium, but when I heard that he would be willing to come here instead, I knew we’d found the perfect solution. At a fraction of the cost and a fraction of the calories — it’s a win for everyone but our team.”
Brit’s Pub in Minneapolis will be showing a live tracker of the Galaxy’s flight, but they recommend arriving early to secure a spot. There will be a cover charge.
A local group of supporters are also arranging to meet Zlatan at the airport. “That little thing we did for Darwin was pretty cool,” said one fan who plans to attend. “But it was really just a warm-up for Zlatan.”
The Wonderwall is also scrambling to piece together a “Welcome” tifo for the match.
We’ll have team coverage — including a rented helicopter to follow Zlatan around the cities — in the coming days.