Zlatan Ibrahimovic won his unprecedented fifth consecutive Golden Ball Nov. 15 as football players, pundits, movers and shakers gathered in Malmö for the annual Svenska Fotbollsförbundet Football Gala.
It is the sixth time the 29-year-old AC Milan forward has won the prize, which goes every year to the best Swedish football player. Ibrahimovic was the main choice on a list of players that seemed shorter than other years. Panelists no longer seem to consider Allsvenskan players for the top prize, despite a long list of young talent powering Swedish teams into Europe.
Ibrahimovic joined Milan on loan at the start of the 2010-11 season from Barcelona, where he had lost his spot as a starter. He had seven goals in 12 matches for his new team and, on his return to the international team in July, became Sweden’s captain.
Malmö LdB captain Therese Sjögran won the Diamond Ball as top women’s player after she led Malmo to the 2010 Damallsvenskan title. She beat Philadelphia midfielder Caroline Seger, who was the only Swede to play for a playoff team in the faltering U.S.-based WPS.
Somewhat predictably, Ibrahimovic also won Forward of the Year honors, with Malmö striker Manon Melis taking home the women’s prize. Melis led the Damallsvenskan in scoring with 25 goals.
Seger won Midfielder of the Year honors, with AZ Alkmaar star Pontus Wernblom winning the men’s prize. Juventus back Olof Mellberg won the men’s Defender of the Year award for the third consecutive year. Charlotte Rohlin of Linköping won the women’s award.
John Wiland won the men’s Goalkeeper of the Year award for his work at FC Copenhagen. Linkoping net minder Sofia Lundgren won the women’s prize.
Malmö midfielder Ivo Pekalski beat out a strong field to win men’s Rookie of the Year honors. Antonia Göransson, who played for both Kopparbergs/Göteborg amd Hamburg in Germany, won the women’s prize.
Hometown fans had plenty to cheer when the judges announced the winners of the men’s and women’s Coach of the Year: Malmö FF manager Roland Nilsson and Malmö LdB mentor Martin Sjögren.
Jenny Palmqvist and Markus Strömbergsson won Referee of the Year.