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  By: Afshin Dastafshan

Author

Exclusive interview with Shana Haji, the first Iranian player in Scotland

www.footballmedia.net Afshin Dastafshan - Shana Haji (full name Shahnam Hajmollah Ahmad Naraji) was born to an Iranian father and British mother in Barrow-in-furness in Cumbria (England) in 1988, he then moved to Iran and grew up in Tehran. At only 18 Shana has already played in Iran, Spain and has now become the first Iranian player in the Scottish Premier League.
 
I had the fortune of arranging an interview with Hibernian’s latest signing Shana Haji and would like to thank Shana and Hibernian FC in advance for agreeing to this interview.
 
Afshin:
You have had quite a career for an 18 year old player having played in professional leagues in Iran, Spain and now Scotland, you have also turned down an offer from Norwegian Premier League club Tromso; could you take us to the beginning and tell us about your football before you signed with Esteghlal FC and what led to your signing with the Tehran giants?
 
Shana:
I started playing football in Tehran at the age of 7, like many other kids I played in our street, I took my football seriously and joined the football academy run by Mr Hassan Rowshan (former Iranian international striker who played against Scotland in WC78), I was coached by Mr Rowshan, Mr Hajilou and Mr Ghorab and Mr. Ghani
 
Afshin:
At what age did you join Esteghlal FC and did you consider joining another club at that point in the context of Mr Rowshan’s well-known Esteghlal (Taj) background?
 
Shana:
I joint Esteghlal at an early age, there wasn’t an organised or official youth side in the club, I moved from Mr Rowshan’s football academy to Esteghlal FC, I did not consider any other clubs; Mr Rowshan’s coaching classes basically led to Esteghlal FC.

 
Afshin:
Iranian international Javad Nekunam was signed by Spanish side Osasuna FC after his impressive performance in WC2006 finals, Nekunam who played against Glasgow Rangers in UEFA Cup last month was seen as the first Iranian to play in Spain, but you played for the Spanish Primera Division side Real Zaragoza one year before Nekunam joined Osasuna, could you tell me about your time at Real Zaragoza?
 
Shana:
I played for Real Zaragoza for one year in season 2005/2006 but that was their youth team not the senior side, I was 17 at the time. I was in the starting line-up of Real Zaragoza Youth Team throughout last season and gained valuable experience.
 
Afshin:
After Real Zaragoza you had a four day trial with Norwegian premier league club Tromso but turned down their offer of a contract before returning to Esteghlal FC of Tehran, what made you turn down an offer from Tromso in favour of Esteghlal?
 
Shana:
Primarily I could not have joined Tromso because the transfer window had closed, but Tromso kept the offer of contract open until the window re-opened, however, after careful consideration I decided not to move to Norway, I preferred to join an European club from a stronger football country with higher football standards and solid infrastructure hence turning down Tromso.
 
Afshin:
The fact that you turned down a contract from an European club (Tromso) shows you are the type of player who would not sign a deal with just any club, you will have certain expectations and look for certain standards, so what made your mind up to sign with Hibernian FC (established in 1875) in Scotland?
 
Shana:
Hibernian is one of the oldest clubs in the world, a premier league club in a well established professional league, I watched the team, they play good football, they are a solid team and don’t give the ball away easily, I like their style of play.

 
Afshin:
Hibs have had a busy time since you joined them in Mid-March, Hibs have won the CIS Insurance Cup and could do the double by winning Tennet’s Scottish Cup, how are you settling in at Hibs?
 
Shana:
I was at Hampden Park when we beat Kilmarnock 5-1 in CIS Cup final, I was very pleased and excited, the atmosphere in the stadium was unbelievable, you could feel the passion in the whole city. Right now I am focusing on my training; I will give it 100% and do the best I can for Hibs.
 
Afshin:
You have joined Hibs quite late on in the season with only a handful of games remaining, are there any indications as to when you will get the opportunity to play (including reserve team) this season?
 
Shana:
I am hoping to play in Hibernian’s next reserve game.
 
Afshin:
Do you have a preference in what position play?
 
Shana:
I prefer to play right winger position.
  
Afshin:
Is there anything you would like to add considering that you have only been at Hibs for three weeks? Anything you would like to say to Hibernian as well as Iranian fans?
 
Shana:
I would like to prove myself on the pitch first, I do the talking on the pitch and would like to settle in the team and club, once I have established myself at Hibernian we could have another meeting and touch on other areas.
 
Afshin:
Thank you for your time and accepting my request for an interview. I wish you all the best at Hibernian and look forward to our next meeting in due course.

 
Footnote: This was the first time I met Shana, he is a young talented player determined to succeed at Hibs. Shana was very professional when answering questions, at 18 he has considerable amount of experience of the game as his track record shows. I believe Shana can be of service to Hibernian and that the club would benefit from his presence. Shana is fully focused on his game and training, he is fully committed to the club. I had the fortune of bumping into Hibs boss John Collins while taking photos of Shana by the pitch; I had the honour of a hand shake, a quick chat and took a photo of Shana and John Collins in the dugout at Easter Road (Hibernian home, photo above). I also managed to join in and have a photo done alongside Shana and a group of young Hibs fans showing off the CIS Cup trophy won under John Collins last month (the trophy was handed to the fans by the boss himself), the atmosphere at Hibs was fantastic, as a fan of Scottish and Iranian football I hope to see Shana Haji staying on at Hibs and eagerly await John Collins’ plans on Shana. I will leave you with the following quote from Hibs boss John Collins on the day he signed Shana Haji: “We have to look at players whom we can develop. We saw something in Shana in training which we liked and having seen enough in a couple of sessions we had to sign him to see more.”

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