Still aged only 26, Australian striker Hossein ‘Hussy’ Ellahi has already had quite the nomadic career which has already spanned across almost every continent on Earth, however, his latest destination Gibraltar might just be the strangest yet….
Starting his football career off in the far more familiar surroundings of Hornsby NSW, Ellahi’s footballing journey started off in perhaps a way very similar to many professional footballers, falling in love with the game while playing football in the backyard with his older brother, before going on to play for his local football side Hornsby RSL.
“One day back in Newcastle in Australia; I was walking to training with my older brother, and I remember that I was playing with the older age team, and the coach was always putting me in the middle of the park, and it was hard for me against bigger players.
“I asked my brother ‘what is it called? the guy that plays up top, close to the goal?’ and he said, ‘that’s the striker’ I remember repeating this word on my way to training, just repeating ‘striker. striker. striker.’ and then at training, I walked up to the coach and said, ‘can I play striker?’.
“I remember that day just scoring goals, and I think that’s when the first spark hit me, for the love of football.”
After very quickly finding his feet in football, and in his new role as a striker Ellahi started having serious ambitions of becoming a professional footballer and would work tirelessly with the support of his family to make his dream become a reality.
Ellahi would make the first in many overseas journeys in his footballing career, this first move was to the sporting obsessed nation of America, where he would link up with MLS powerhouses Seattle Sounders, signing on for their reserve side Seattle Sounders 2 who are now known as Tacoma Defiance.
With Australia and America sharing a very similar sporting landscape, a landscape unlike many other countries in the world, dominated by many sports, with football or ‘Soccer’ being fairly low on the pecking order, it was a much more comfortable first step into the world of professional sports for Ellahi.
“I think in America, everything is just bigger, the facilities are bigger, the sports are bigger, the atmospheres are bigger and obviously the population is a lot more than the back home as well.
“But I think everything amplified over there, Seattle right now has become one of the most successful clubs in recent history, they’ve become a historical organisation and cemented themselves in history now.
“So, just to be at an organisation so big was amazing, big facilities, we have 12 pitches over there, physios, gyms, there are the sort of things that America is kind of ahead, but obviously, it’s hard to compare because the population is so much bigger and there’s much more resources in the MLS, versus back home in Australia.”
After spending a few years learning his craft and plying his trade in a professional set up in America, Ellahi would make his first venture into European football, where unlike Australia and America, football is not only the most popular sport, but also seen as a way of life to some, linking up with German outfit Hanauer SC in the German lower leagues.
“The biggest realization with Germany was the that despite the age or the level, everyone is so much more advanced technically, their basic level of technical understanding tactical understanding is so much higher than the United States and in Australia.
“My first observation I remember was when I was back home in Australia, and this is not a knock to Australia, I don’t ever want it to seem that way, but it’s just a footballing nation versus, not a footballing nation.
“Everyone has such a high level of technical understanding, and I remember for myself up to the age of 16, and I was playing at a good local side in Australia, but up to the age of 16, it was essentially playing and not much else.
“In Germany, it was just much more advanced with younger players had such a better understanding of movements, of checking their shoulder, of certain timings to use certain techniques or to touch with their feet, maybe that was my personal experience, I don’t know.
“I feel that because of I wasn’t from footballing nation, and I was a late bloomer in that sense, I had to add a short amount of time to just absorb as much information as possible to try to decrease that technical gap as quickly as possible.”
While in Germany, Ellahi looked to bridge the gap he had discovered technically in his game compared to the locals, training hard, but ultimately struggling for any meaningful gametime, soon returning briefly to Australia where he would turn out for sides such as Albion Park White Eagles, all while still pushing for a return to Europe and trying his luck in Asia and chasing his professional dream.
His Asian adventure was short and difficult, having very brief spells in India and Singapore, however in both cases he was unable to find game time during both his spells there, although it would end up as just a footnote in his footballing story as he would soon be back off into Europe this time arriving in France.
His French adventure was a far cry from the bling and the bright lights of Ligue 1, where stars like Neymar and Kylian Mbappe feature, Ellahi would arrive at a much humbler location, signing for FC Vaulx-en-Velin who play in France’s fifth tier.
“The biggest thing when I went over to France was that I wanted to adapt myself to be like a French striker, and over the course of a few months, and with the help of a mentor of mine, I realized that I’m never going to be able to do what a French striker does, if I want to do that, by the time I reach their level of instinctual habits, it’s gonna take years.
“What I needed to do is find what I’m good at, and that’s where Australia comes into play, I think one thing we have as Australians is having an amazing work rate, people might see this as a negative, but for myself, I realized that I can give everything I want to give in terms of football, but there’s one thing I can give that they don’t have here, and that’s the work rate
“That gave me a hard responsibility, because in addition to doing everything that they do, I have to also, defend and press and constantly make runs and make movements.
“I felt that if I don’t add this component of my game and show this component, I’m going to just be one of them, and I promise you, they’re not going to sign an Australian that’s going to try to be like them because they have better players here or in Europe than we do back home, it’s cheaper to sign a player from France, it’s easier, there’s no visa laws, there’s no contractual obligations right there.
“I realised I’m going to be like them, but I’m going to also add a component that that does not exist here.”
The life of a footballer chasing their dreams can be hard and unpredictable and Hossein Ellahi is no stranger to nomadic side of the game, after a short spell back in Germany, this time in the German sixth tier and limited games Ellahi would begin packing his bags, moving around to various locations while trying his luck at numerous club trials, at numerous football clubs in many different countries before finding luck and signing a deal in Austria, in what was perhaps his most successful spell so far in his fledgling career.
Ellahi would pen a deal in 2021 with ATSV Stadl-Paura, a humble club in the Austrian 3rd tier, with a ground capacity of only 2,200 and a wage budget that would be only a small fraction of most NPL clubs.
While in Austria, Hossein would find some much-needed game time, stringing together a good run of matches and finding the back of the net, only signing a short-term deal with the Austrian side, it would not be long until Ellahi would find himself in the familiar position of trying to find a new club.
Ellahi’s football career has taken him to many interesting locations over the years, however few have been as interesting as his current destination Gibraltarian side Glacis United, joining fellow Aussie Kody Maude (Who features for Mons Calpe) in the Gibraltar Football League.
Founded in 2019, the Gibraltar football league is new and much very similar to the A-League Men in format, a single tiered football competition with only 11 teams and a cap on foreign players, however there is the chance to qualify for European football with Europa League and Champions league qualification spots on offer to the top teams, with Lincoln Red Imps famously making a name for themselves in the competition in the past.
“For me, personally, I was spending several years in major nations, but not in the top division, And the objective for me was go to a smaller nation and play in the top tier, so that’s where Gibraltar came into play.
It’s a beautiful place, it’s a wonderful place to be honest.
It has amazing scenery, very nice people, it is very clean, very safe, to be honest I have nothing but positive things to say, obviously, it’s still early days. But so far, so good.”
(6) Glacis United on Twitter: “Australian, Iranian striker Mohammad Hossein Ellahi signs for Glacis United for the 22/2023 season Played in Austria, France, Germany, USA, Singapore, and Australia 🇦🇺🇮🇷 ➡️ 🇬🇮 https://t.co/XzHyNX0jTW” / Twitter
His new side Glacis United are one of the humbler outfits of Gibraltar’s football leagues in terms of finances, despite this, they have a rich and storied past with 5 Rock Cup’s (Gibraltar’s FA Cup) and 17 league titles to their name, and new signing Ellahi is hoping to add another title, and the first of the new league era to the club’s cabinet.
“I want to help the team as much as possible, that’s always the most important thing and I want to be able to contribute and to fight for a European spot.
I” want goals and assists; the goal is always to improve, it’s not so about travelling, or about lifestyle or about money, it’s about doing everything I can to one day, fight for a sport and get a call up to the Socceroos, and I don’t think I will stop until that day comes.”
“Over the years I have realized I may be the only Australian people have met in their life, and even though I’m only one person, I may be a representation of a whole nation or culture to them, they may make their judgement on our country based on their experiences and observations of me.
“I immediately realised I’m indirectly representing a nation, and not only any nation but my nation, the nation I’m so proud to be from and I took that with me every single day, and in every single country I played in.
“On the pitch I felt that I can show people what we are really about in Australian football, and off the pitch I felt I could show our polite, kind, and open-minded mentality by how I portray myself off the pitch, some may think it’s a lot of pressure to think I’m representing a nation by my daily interactions, however it’s a dream of mine to be a positive image of the country I love so much, even if it’s just one person at a time.”
The life of a professional footballer abroad can be a rollercoaster of uncertainty at times, and while it may not be the biggest footballing nation in Europe, Aussie striker Ellahi is hoping to break through and impress for his new side in Gibraltar, hoping it will be the move to give him much needed gametime and stability while he continues on with his football journey.