Safaa Hadi is the first Iraqi to play in Russia’s Premier League

February 2020 was a turning point in the life of stylish Iraqi midfielder Safaa Hadi. At that point, the promising youngster signed a two-and-a-half-year deal with PFC Krylia Sovetov Samara, making him the first Iraqi to play in the Russian Premier League.

After starting in youth football at the renowned Ammo Baba Academy in Baghdad, Hadi gained his first experience in the senior team at Amant Baghdad SC. He then moved between Al-Minaa SC, Al-Zawra’a SC, and Al-Shorta SC before being appointed to the Iraqi national team for the AFC Asian Cup 2019 and the subsequent Asian qualifiers for the Qatar 2022 FIFA World Cup.

In an exclusive interview with, the 21-year-old discussed his move to Russia and the difficulties he faced in his first job outside of Iraq. He also expressed his firm desire to continue playing in the host country of the flagship event of world football two years ago.

“It is normal to encounter difficulties at the start of a new journey, and Russia was very different in terms of society and language for me,” said Hadi from his home in Samara.

“I had to adapt to the new life and situation here. As a young man who left his family for the first time and lived outside of Iraq, I had a hard time. But I resolved most of the difficulties with determination and ambition. Now I did it. ” I can speak some Russian and how to behave, even though I still have so much to learn. “

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Despite the many difficulties and the fact that he only played four minutes for his new club in March, the midfielder appears to be enjoying the Russian experience, especially being able to play and train on the same fields as the 2018 the best exponents of football were the FIFA World Cup ™.

Hadi saw first hand the positive effects of the tournament on the whole country and said about the event: “The 2018 World Cup final was excellent in terms of organization and stadiums. After these games, the topic of football was on everyone’s lips in Russia Hosting a tournament of the caliber of the World Cup and welcoming fans from all over the world certainly had a positive effect here. “

“Although there has been a first-class league here in Russia for a long time, the World Cup has given Russian football a tremendous boost. The stadiums are of the highest quality and I personally am proud to have had the opportunity to play on fields the world is playing. ” The best footballers played two years ago, “he added.

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Safaa Hadi
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – JANUARY 22: Safaa Hadi of Iraq during the AFC Asian Cup round of 16 match between Qatar and Iraq at Al Nahyan Stadium on January 22, 2019 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Matthew Ashton – AMA/Getty Images)

Hadi’s first experience with Krylia in March was certainly short-lived. Just a day after its debut for the club, Russia stopped all sporting activities due to the Covid 19 pandemic, much to Iraq’s regret.

“I was severely affected by the football interruption. Nevertheless, I trained in the team’s internal facilities every day. Now we are stuck in a hotel on the club’s premises, waiting for the league to resume as soon as possible. “

“When the action starts again, I hope that I will have the opportunity to prove myself and show that I was an important addition to Krylia, one of the best clubs in the Russian league. The reopening will open many doors for me in particular.” with the presence of large teams such as Zenit Saint Petersburg, Spartak Moscow and others. “

However, his quarantine on the club’s premises in Russia had at least one positive aspect for Hadi. He met with Ksenia Polyakova, the Russian rhythmic gymnast and former world champion, to produce a video together to raise awareness of the importance of physical exercise at home.

“Working with a gymnast for this video was a new experience for me,” said Hadi. “I’m glad I had such an opportunity that brought me many positive things in these difficult times.”

Safaa Hadi’s Dream

Hadi played an important role in his country’s early successes in the second round of AFC qualifying for Qatar 2022, in which the Mesopotamian lions led a tough Group C, which also includes the Iranian heavyweights, which Iraq had 2: Defeated 1.

Regarding his country’s qualification campaign, Hadi said: “We have had some positive results and are at the top of our group, which is no coincidence. Our accomplishments have been exceptional thanks to a young squad, infused with seasoned veterans.

“For me and the Iraqi team, it is the dream to reach the World Cup. The tournament is being played for the first time in an Arab country that is geographically close to Iraq. I hope we can make this dream come true through the Iraqi country. ” Efforts by all Iraqis, not only through the work of Safaa Hadi and all other Iraqi players. Our people deserve the joy of seeing Iraq at the World Cup finals. “

Updated: June 5, 2020 — 3:04 am

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