Ibrahimovic faces ban over anti-France tirade

Philippe Grelard

Paris (AFP) - Paris Saint-Germain's volatile star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic could face a four match suspension over comments he made about his host country which one French minister called "insulting".

The French league will study the Swedish player's latest outburst at a meeting on Thursday and a source close to the dossier said he could face up to a four match ban.

However, the punishment would not be imposed on Thursday as they would decide then whether or not to summon him to a hearing over the incident and that would be within three weeks, although PSG could demand that he be heard earlier.

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Even though Ibrahimovic apologised in a public relations damage limitation campaign, far-right National Front leader Marine Le Pen said he should leave France.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls told Canal Plus he was shocked by Ibrahimovic's remarks in which the Swede labelled France as being a 'shit country'.

"I am shocked by the remarks in equal measure about the refereeing as about France," he said.

"I would urge him to behave in an exemplary manner all the time."

The league imposed a two match ban in February after Ibrahamovic kicked an opponent.

He was also controversially sent off in the Champions League victory over Chelsea last week and will miss the two leg quarter final.

Ibrahimovic, who has a reputation for making outspoken comments, made the remarks after a 3-2 defeat by Bordeaux on Sunday in which he scored twice.

Furious at decisions made against PSG, Ibrahimovic stormed off the pitch and said: "In 15 years, I have never seen such a referee. In this shit country, this country does not deserve PSG. We are too good for this country."

He also made an abusive comment about the referee but backed down after France's Sports Minister Patrick Kanner called the remarks "insulting".

Ibrahamovic said in a statement and in a video for the Paris Saint-Germain website that his comments "were not directed at France or the French."

"I was angry in the heat of the moment. If they thought my comments were against them or if they misinterpreted them, I apologise sincerely," the 33-year said in the video.

"People have always welcomed me, I am happy, I respect people who respect me. Every day of my adventure at PSG is fantastic," he added.

"Don't twist things. Let's talk about football, let's not talk about anything but football because football is the most important thing for me."

But the apologies were not sufficient to calm the stormy waters.

Sports Minister Kanner welcomed the apology but said "if a personality as important as Zlatan Ibrahimovic makes such comments, we should not be surprised that there are such difficulties in stadiums."

- Le Pen says 'leave' -

"Those who consider that France is a shit country can leave it," Le Pen told the France Info radio station.

Jerome Guedj, a leading Socialist party politician, called the remarks "unacceptable".

"Let him play football and shut up, or at least be respectful of this country, the football supporters who were also insulted."

Ibrahimovic has become an icon for Paris fans and a wax effigy was unveiled at the Musee Grevin in Paris last month.

A fresh ban could see him miss some key matches as PSG chase four trophies and would also increase speculation about his future at the club.

Comments made by the Swedish player at the referee in Sunday's game are likely to be studied at Thursday's hearing.

The French referees union, SAFE, hit out at what it called "a new torrent of hate and verbal violence" by Ibrahimovic.

"There are limits that cannot be and must not be crossed," the union said, highlighting the "growing violence" at football matches even at local level.

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