Hasan Ibrahimi is a quiet and unassuming but extremely reliable person. He first started kicking a ball around with his friends on a nearby pitch at the age of four – and continued to do so for many years. Originally a striker by trade, Ibrahimi has now worked his way into the first-team squad at his club FC Pinzgau Saalfelden, although minor illnesses and injuries did serve to set him back a little last year. “I still have very clear memories of starting out. I played my first tournament at U8 level and we finished second. That was really cool and it stuck in my mind. We had a really good team and we simply had a real lot of fun together,” grins the Saalfelden native, who was only converted into a midfielder at the age of 16. Ibrahimi always had a good eye for scoring goals and finished as the top-scorer at youth level on several occasions. For a long period of time, he was part of a strong Pinzgau side that won the title at youth level year-in, year-out.
“One thing is very important to me, though. I’m very thankful for the support I’ve received over the last few years from my family, who have always been behind me and given me a helping hand – especially my father, who has sacrificed a lot of time for me. That gives me a sense of security and feels really good,” said Ibrahimi, as he underscored the importance of his family.
Twice the workload
“I haven’t played for the first team as much as I would’ve liked this season. I’ve always been involved, but I’ve mostly played for the 1b team. It’s important that you don’t let your head drop and stay positive. It’s not always easy and can often be exhausting. As I have a job, I always have to give a few percent more to ensure I reach the same level as the players who are exclusively focused on football. My day starts at 6:30am. I go to work in Zell am See, before making a ‘quick’ dash to training. A tight schedule, but it works,” explained the car mechanic, who will take his final apprenticeship exams in the summer. To begin with, the midfielder struggled with the change to four training sessions a week – especially since the intensity was much higher than he was used to at 1b level. “My highlight was definitely my goal away in Seekirchen, which I managed to score after coming on as a substitute. It was very emotional, although it unfortunately didn’t do us any good and we lost the game.”
Even though the season hasn’t quite gone according to plan for the 19-year-old, he feels he is in good hands at the club. “It’s a great honour for me to have a prominent coach like Christian (editor’s note: Ziege). We’re all delighted about and very proud of this. He is a coach who directly points out our weaknesses and builds up our strengths. I think that’s great. We can benefit a lot from his unbelievable experience and develop; we can always feel all the support,” said an enthusiastic Ibrahimi, who likes to use his free time to cycle around the Pinzgau region and get away from it all for a moment or two.
Tradition and consistency are often used as buzzwords in football. Players often sign on the dotted line in Pinzgau for half a season, before making the leap to clubs in other countries. Pablo Ruiz, Andrew Brody, Josh Heart and Alfusainey Jatta are undoubtedly the best examples of that. But Sota Kitahara has attracted attention over the last six months too, earning himself a spot in the United States’ extended squad at U20 level and showcasing his abilities to bigger clubs. But anyone who thinks all the comings and goings are disruptive for the Pinzgau players is mistaken. “I think it’s great that players from other countries regularly come to us. We’re open to everything. It’s always exciting for us. You get to know new people and learn about their culture and lifestyle. It’s a construct where everyone can benefit. And maybe one day one of us Austrians will make it to America; that would be a dream. All in all, it’s a great thing,” revealed Ibrahimi, who is known for his helpful and diplomatic style.
In Eren Aydinhan and Dominik Moser, Ibrahimi has had two really good pals by his side for many years and together they have experienced many great moments – in their private lives, as footballers and at FC Pinzgau Saalfelden too. Watch this space…