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Mustapha Hadji: Moroccan National Team World Cup Footballer

Mustapha Hadji, the former Morocco midfielder, scored one of France’s World Cup tournament’s most memorable goals in 1998.

As part of its ambassadorial program for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa, the South Africa Soccer Association announced four players. Pele, George Weah, and Roger Milla were also present.

Mustapha Hadji explained to us at the History Of Soccer team that he was pleased about his selection. The fact that they picked me is heartwarming, even though there are many good players in Africa.

Youssef Hadji

Brother Of Youssouf

Mustapha Hadji, the older brother of Nancy striker Youssouf, is regarded as one of the greatest soccer players in Moroccan history. He scored 13 goals in total for his country. After retiring from the international game, he continued his love for soccer by playing for Fola Esch in the Luxembourg league.

In his last three seasons at Fola Esch, he scored 25 goals in only 44 appearances to wind up a wonderful playing career. Despite reaching the top of world soccer for 19 years, the 1998 African Footballer of the Year continues to give back to the beautiful game.


Where It Started

Mustapha Hadji started in the French Ligue 1 with Nancy and has since been associated with Sporting CP Lisbon, Deportivo La Coruna, Coventry City, Aston Villa, and Saarbrucken in Germany. While the gifted Moroccan has never been able to collect the trophies and accolades his skills perhaps deserved, Mustapha Hadji has no regrets about his colorful career.

At the 1994 World Cup in the USA, Mustapha Hadji rose to prominence. It was a decisive moment in his life. In 1999, the Moroccan was 22 years old and had just finished his first season in the second division with Nancy, having renounced his French citizenship 12 months earlier.

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Mustapha Hadji mentioned there was too much competition with Les Bleus. “While I had made my career in France, Morocco had always held a special place in my heart,” Hadji says. Even 26 years after his American adventure, the Moroccan has never forgotten its significance in his soccer education.

It was a different world, a different game than I was used to. I was 22 and had the chance to play in a tournament as big as the World Cup. It is not something everyone gets to do.”

morrocco players celebrate a goal

The Move To Portugal

Sporting Lisbon enticed Mustapha Hadji to Portugal after failing to establish a rapport with Nancy coach Laszlo Boloni upon returning to eastern France.

My first real soccer experience was playing in front of 60,000 fans and training with 3 or 4,000 people. It was an exciting experience because I had to prove myself in a foreign country where I didn’t speak the language. I was incredibly determined.”

After achieving that, Mustapha Hadji obtained further exposure at the highest level when he joined Deportivo La Coruna, one of the leading forces in the Spanish La Liga at the time.

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In the midst of some of the best players worldwide, Hadji was in charge of the midfield. My time there was a step up for me, and I learned a lot as almost half of the World Cup-winning Brazilian squad was on this side”.

Morocco’s inexorable rise continued with Mustapha Hadji’s electric goal against Norway in the opening group game of the 1998 World Cup.

I scored while running for more than 60 meters with the ball at my feet. It was one of my most exciting goals for the national team, as there was the overhead kick I scored against Egypt in the African Cup of Nations that year, which put us in the quarterfinals.”

Mustapha Hadji and Youssef Chippo

Mustapha Hadji Experience Of England

Even though Mustapha Hadji’s wonder goal was not enough to help Morocco advance beyond the first round, he was now being courted by a handful of English clubs.

The first English club the Morocco footballer joined was Coventry City, followed by Aston Villa, where he made quite an impact. According to Hadji, the Premier League is a different planet.

As a result of Hadji’s performances at the World Cup, Gordon Strachan decided to sign him for Coventry along with Youssef Chippo. A year later, Hadji signed for £4 million, a record signing for the club. At games, Moroccan clothing was worn by Coventry fans – fezzes, the flat-topped hat, were particularly popular.

“Playing alongside great players such as Robbie Keane, Gary Mcallister, Paul Telfer, and Steve Froggatt was a wonderful experience.  They gave me the freedom to play,” Hadji shared.

While his arrival was filled with joy, his exit was quite the opposite. Hadji scored two goals in a 3-2 defeat to Aston Villa, which sealed Coventry’s relegation to the Championship and secured his move to the West Midlands rivals. During John Gregory’s reign at Villa, Hadji had fleeting moments as a team member that was losing its way.

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Time For Mustapha Hadji To Move On

Gregory was sacked, and David O’Leary arrived as the new manager.  He told the Moroccan straight that he was no longer required. He continued his football career at Espanyol, Al Emirates Club, FC Sarrebruck, and Luxembourg club, Fola Esch. The Moroccan played until 40 years old.

Visiting England should be on every player’s bucket list. Soccer is a religion there, and families go and watch games together on Sundays. I remember people used their Christmas money to buy tickets on Boxing Day. You can tell that English fans love their teams and football life.”

mustapha-hadji-assistant manager-morocco-national-team

After His Playing Career

Mustapha Hadji has kept busy since he retired from football. Along with his ambassadorial duties, he also plays beach soccer for the FIFA world team. In addition, he continues to provide expert analysis on Moroccan television during the African Cup of Nations, the UEFA Champions League, and the English Premier League starting next year.

In 2012, the former Morocco midfielder became assistant manager at Umm Salal for a few years before becoming the Moroccan national team assistant. He has been the national team’s assistant manager for eight years and loves what he does.

Outside of football, Mustapha Hadji is involved in a partnership with plans to invest in Morocco, providing local people with job opportunities and helping to rid his country of poverty.

Hadji’s connection to the game is as strong as ever, with two sons attending French football academies, one at Nancy and the other at Metz. As assistant manager of the Moroccan national team, Hadji was working with the next generation of the best Morocco soccer players until he was sacked in April 2022.

He was ranked 50th on the list of the greatest African players.

Mustapha Hadji Stats, Facts And Honors

Full Name: Mustapha Hadji

Birthdate: 16/11/1971

Birthplace: Tiznit, Morocco

Position: Attacking midfield


  • AS Nancy-Lorraine (1991-1996)
  • Sporting Clube de Portugal (1996-1997)
  • Deportivo la Coruna (1997-1999)
  • Coventry City FC (1999-2001)
  • Aston Villa FC (2001-2004)
  • RCD Espanyol (2004)
  • Al Emirates Ras Al-Khaima (2004-2005)
  • FC Sarrebruck (2005-2007)
  • Fola Esch (2007-2010)

Total Appearances: 518 matches, 155 goals

National Team Career:

  • Morocco 1993-2000 (63 appearances, 12 goals)

Managerial Career:

  • Umm Salal (Assistant Manager) 2012–2013
  • Morocco National Team (Assistant Manager) 2014–2022

Playing Honors:

Sporting CP

  • 1995: Supertaça Cândido de Oliveira Winners

Aston Villa

  • 2001: UEFA Intertoto Cup Winners

Individual Honors:

  • 1994 and 1998: Two-time participant at the World Cup
  • 1998: African Footballer of the Year
  • 2011: CAF Legend Award

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