The Swedish bomb who is Celtic's most effective weapon, HENRIK LARSSON is putting style back into Scottish football. Words: Lorin McDougall
‘I’M NOT HERE to follow in the footsteps of Paulo Di Canio. l’m Henrik Larsson and I play my own game. If people stop talking about him, maybe that’s a compliment.’
Poised. assured and razor sharp. Celtic’s Swedish star talks the way he plays when discussing his predecessor as the fans’ favourite. It is also clear that he is very much his own man.
The 26-year—old’s individuality is further illustrated by his dreadlocked hairstyle which shatters all preconceived notions of blond. blue-eyed Scandinavians. Larsson’s look. which he has cultivated since the age of sixteen. is more Bob Marley than Abba. ‘lt’s
'Bagpipe music I've heard a lot, but haggis I haven't tried — and I don't want
to either.’ Henrik Larsson
very easy to have my hair like this.’ he says. ‘1 don’t comb it. ljust wash it as normal and there’s no problem.’ The black eye which resulted from a skirmish with team-mate Tosh McKinlay during a recent training session. is not part of the long-term image — despite it having propelled him into the headlines.
On the pitch. Larsson is no ball-greedy maverick — he is a fine player. arguably proving more productive than the gifted but
12 THE LIST 21 Nov—4 Dec 1997
eccentric Italian Di Canio. who moved to Sheffield Wednesday. In his first few months at Parkhead. Larsson has scored regularly and is bringing the best out of young players like Simon Donnelly. His skills have also guided Celtic to the Coca Cola Cup Final on 30 November. when they will face Dundee L'nited.
The £65().()()() transfer fee paid to Feyenoord of Rotterdam now seems like peanuts. particularly for a man who helped his country finish third in the 1994 World Cup. What's more. Larsson enjoys Scotland so much that he has promised to honour his three-year contract in full.
‘I didn’t know that much about Scotland before I moved here. but I think Glasgow is a very nice city.’ says Henrick. who lives in Bothwell with wife .Vlagdalena and baby son Jordan. ‘For three and a half years I'd been living in Holland where it’s crowded and you can‘t do anything. It's nice to come back to an environment that reminds me a little bit of Sweden.
‘The supporters have been fantastic. and the club has been very good by helping me to organise things like the move from Holland. There hasn’t been any hassle — some clubs make a big fuss over paying for a move. but there wasn’t a question about that. (‘cltic told
Henrik Larsson: Celtic's dread zone
me they’d help me. whatever I wanted to bring over. It’s good. because that always creates trust between a player and a club.’
Like many newcomers to the country. the Swede was quickly introduced to that most famous of Scottish garments. ‘When I move from Scotland. one of the things I will have is a kilt.‘ he says. smiling. ‘lt will be a good memory of my days here. but I’m not going to wear it in the close future. Bagpipe music I‘ve heard a lot. but haggis I haven’t tried — and I don’t want to either.‘
A much tastier prospect was Larsson’s Old Firm debut. and although the outcome proved unpalatable for Celtic — a narrow defeat at Ibrox — the occasion’s unique atmosphere did not go unnoticed: ‘lieyenoord versus Ajax is a big game in Holland. but there's not so much talk about it. Here. you start talking about the Old Firm match on the Monday before the game. In Holland they start maybe on the ’l‘hursday.’
A similar sense of anticipation will surround the (‘oca Cola Cup Final. ‘I know it‘s very important for the supporters and the players.’ says CeltiC’s most potent weapon. ‘lt never counts if you finish second — it’s always number one that counts.‘
The Coca Cola Cup Final: Celtic v Dundee United, Ibrox Stadium, Sun 30 Nov. See sport listings.