Algeria and Dynamo Zagreb forward El Arabi Hilal Soudani .
While his hometown club ASO Chlef clearly played an important role in his career – he played there between 1998 and 2011, winning the Algerian title in 2011 – Soudani’s ascendancy has not been without its setbacks. Despite his obvious ability, it took a long time for European football to sit up and take notice of this quick, skilful left-sided forward. “I’ve come a long way. In Algeria, where football is like a religion, everyone wants to make a career in the sport. So there are plenty of people on the starting line, but only a handful truly make it. You really have to fight to get there,” he admitted. “For my part, I’ve now played in the African Cup of Nations, the Champions League and even the World Cup. Sure, that’s not an end in itself. But I’m proud, and very aware of how far I’ve come. I’m living my dream.”
The European adventure
When the call eventually came, it was Portuguese club Vitoria Guimaraes that took the gamble on bringing him to Europe for the first time. And as well as being a reliable performer out on the field of play, Soudani has also proved to be a loyal employee – even when he has already moved on to pastures new. ASO Chlef aside, he has only played at two other clubs. “I only played at Vitoria for two years, but I will always be grateful to the club. They’re the ones who really gave me my big opportunity,” explained Soudrani. “I’m happy to have been able to play my own part in writing a new chapter in their rich history,” he added, in reference to the club’s Portuguese Cup triumph in 2013.
His next destination was Croatia and, more precisely, Dynamo Zagreb, where he has been playing since 2013. And despite attracting the interest of various Western European clubs, the ever-faithful Soudani chose to stay put during this summer’s transfer window. “I had a frank conversation with the chairman at the start of the Cheap FIFA Coins. He wanted me to stay another year. I accepted because this is another club to which I am truly indebted. It’s a legendary club, and I feel very much at home in Zagreb,” he explained. “But I also think that, emotions aside, it was the right decision. The Croatian league has more to offer than at first it might seem. I’m playing in the Champions League for the fourth year running. I’m as hungry and as confident as ever.”
This is good news for an Algerian side who need their striker to be at the top of his game for what is shaping up to be a tough qualifying campaign. In addition to the Indomitable Lions, who they face on 7 October, Les Guerriers du Désert have been drawn against Zambia and Nigeria in an ultra-competitive Group B. “We’re all big teams. It’s not going to be easy, but I’m confident,” stated Soudani, who was still visibly moved to recall his experiences at Brazil 2014. “It’s a really fond memory. We had an outstanding tournament, historic even! We did our people proud, and I dream of being able to experience those emotions again one day,” he concluded.
Despite his perennial status as second fiddle, this is one striker determined to play a leading role on the road to Russia 2018.
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