KIEV, June 14 (Reuters) - When he marked Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his youth they both dreamed of representing their country Sweden at the European Championship.
Both have realised their ambition but only the famous 30-year-old striker is playing at Euro 2012.
”I’m two years older than Zlatan, but even when we were kids he was bigger than everyone, so he was very hard to handle,” said Gorgin Shoai, a liaison officer for the Swedish police force in Kiev during the tournament.
”The way he received the ball, that’s what he was best at back then. He was so strong you couldn’t get it off him.”
As his former opponent trained with the rest of the squad on the pitch, Shoai spoke to Reuters on the sidelines, casting a relaxed eye over the thousands of Swedish fans enjoying the spectacle in blazing sunshine.
Normally based in the southern city of Malmo, he is one of eight Swedish police officers on duty in Kiev.
”We’re here as long as Sweden are in the championship, so I hope that we get progress from the group,” Shoai said. “We can start there, but my first goal is that they get out of the group.”
Shoai and his colleagues work with Ukrainian police to ensure the safety of Swedish fans and to make sure the party-loving Swedes following their team do not get out of hand.
”There are a few that have lost their mobile phones or had their wallets stolen,” he said. “They’ve been partying a lot here, as you can see. They are the only problems we have seen.”
Perhaps unexpectedly in the normally peaceful Scandinavian country, violence has flared up regularly with football supporters in recent years.
Several matches have been interrupted by fireworks being thrown at officials, and national team goalkeeper Par Hansson was knocked to the ground by a fan, causing the derby game between Malmo and Helsingborg to be abandoned.
Organised fights between rival hooligan firms often occur away from the grounds, sports minister Lena Adelsohn-Liljeroth has said that making top-flight football safe for families was a priority for her government.
As part of this effort, Shoai and his seven colleagues in Kiev all work full-time on football issues in Sweden.
The Swedish officers have no powers under Ukrainian law and are not allowed to carry their service weapons, and their role is to mediate between Swedish fans and the local police force.
Despite Sweden losing 2-1 to Ukraine in their opening game, Shoai has yet to hear of any arrests or trouble from Swedish fans and he does not anticipate any fighting at the second group match against England.
”We don’t expect any problems, there’s not that many English supporters coming, not as many as we expected in the beginning,” he said.
Asked how long he expected to stay in Ukraine, Shoai paused and smiled.
”From the heart? From what we saw against Ukraine I don’t think they’ll get out of the group but obviously I’m hoping. Everything can happen in football. That’s the fun part of it.
”And with Zlatan up front, anything can happen.” (Editing by Ed Osmond)