The Hadjis, a golden legacy
Generations of Hadji give way to one another on the field, with a stunning ability to lead prolonged careers. From Mustapha through Youssouf all the way to Samir, let’s take a look at this family football odyssey.
First came Mustapha, the eldest, who paved the way. Then his little brother Youssouf, who dove head first. Today, while the former is retired and the latter plays his last seasons, it’s up to Samir, Mustapha’s son, to carry the torch. Cumulated, the Hadjis have been playing the fields since the early 90s, with a distinct preference for the Grand Est region. It all started when Mustapha, born in Ifrane, Morocco and raised in France, made pro for Nancy, a club in which he became a legend. Stylish and efficient, he enjoyed himself at the Marcel-Picot stadium through four seasons, even including a small detour to play the World Cup in the United States in 1994 with the Atlas Lions, before taking off for the Portuguese championship two years later. It’s really too bad, for, if he only had stayed a little longer, he would have crossed paths with his younger brother Youssouf, who joined the Nancy pros in 1999. Wether in selection or at the ASNL, with nine years between them, the Hadjis followed one another but never had the chance to play together, and were only once on the same roster, during a game against Gabon. Yet despite never managing to play together for the same team, the Hadji brothers managed to cultivate their similarities.
Grand Est passion
When Youssouf starts his career, Mustapha is at the top of his game, just awarded with the African Ballon d’Or, after shining in the 98 World Cup. When they meet the younger Hadji, onlookers are mesmerised. Youssouf and Mustapha look like twins, both wear their hair long, and go as far as adopting the same style on the field. During a game between Nancy and Marseille, a commentator makes a fool of himself by spending 90 minutes calling Youssouf ‘Mustapha Hadji’. But while the eldest tries to make it abroad by going through contracts in Portugal, Spain, England or Germany, the youngest is happy to stay in France. He tries to expand by playing for Bastia, then Rennes, before finally returning home and proudly wearing the Nancy jersey once more in 2007, at a time when the “Chardons” are on fire. “The years with Pascal Berenguer, Mike Chretien, Issiar Dia, this team, I miss it” he confided years later. “We had an amazing team. In 2007-2008, we thought we were playing for keeps, but ended up taking a shot at the podium.” A love for eastern France that Mustapha shares when it’s his time to say goodbye, since at the same time he goes to live a last adventure in Luxembourg, a stone’s throw away from the border, with three seasons at Fola Esch before finally hanging up. As for Youssouf, he finally decides to start a foreign adventure and leaves for Qatar, then Turkey, but soon grows tired of it. So in 2014, he decides to return to France. To Nancy, obviously.
At that time ASNL is bouncing back between league one and league two, but Youssouf dreams big. “We play in a league one stadium, we have everything to play in first division. We feel that we’re playing for a great team, that’s why I think Nancy must play in league one.” In the meantime, Mustapha makes the most of his huge popularity in Morocco after his retirement and dances between jobs: as a consultant, commentator, or deputy-coach for the national team. More than anything, he sends his son Samir on the field to keep the Hadji legacy alive and well. The kid definitely kept the old habits of his dad and uncle since he completed his training at Nancy before joining Strasbourg. Today, Samir plays for Fola Esch in Luxembourg, like his father five years prior. Now 37, Youssouf can walk quietly towards the end of his career – the Hadji flag is still on the fields.