West Ham’s Sofiane Feghouli talks about his move to London
Feghouli says he is ‘particularly proud’ of joining the club
Ask West Ham’s new hotshot winger Sofiane Feghouli what inspired him to join the Hammers, and he replies with one word: “Passion!”
The 26-year-old Desert Fox captained Algeria in the 2014 World Cup, which gave him a taste for success that will not go away.
“We came close to beating Germany in the last 16, after producing the performance of our lives in front of a worldwide audience,” Feghouli told Al Arabiya English.
“West Ham players throughout the decades have always shown similar passion, and that’s a legacy I want to be a part of.”
Feghouli says he is “particularly proud” of joining the club that produced England World Cup winners Bobby Moore, Martin Peters and Geoff Hurst, who beat West Germany 4-2 in 1966.
“That was exactly 50 years ago, but the tradition is still burning strong,” said Feghouli. “West Ham is all about aiming for the stars, and many of its players have got there.
“The current squad can do the same. It’s full of talent, and we have a brilliant manager in Slaven Bilic.”
Feghouli scored in his debut for the Hammers in the 3-0 Europa League qualifying win over NK Domzale this month.
It was West Ham’s first ever game at their new ground, London’s Olympic Stadium, and he said he felt “completely at home.”
He added: “I watched the London Olympics here in 2012, and was astounded by some of the performances, especially by British and Algerian athletes.
“The stadium has something about it, and when it’s full of thousands of West Ham fans, it becomes a magnificent place. All of us want to keep them happy and win them a trophy or two. They’re incredible.”
Beyond double-gold running hero Mo Farah, Feghouli is a big supporter of his fellow countryman Taoufik Makhloufi, the Algerian runner.
Makhloufi became 1,500-meter champ in London, and like Farah, is still winning medals at this year’s Olympics in Rio, taking a double silver in the 800-meter and 1,500-meter finals.
Farah and Makhloufi are known for kneeling on the ground and saying a short prayer after every win. Feghouli did the same after his first United goal.
The devout Muslim, who was born in a Paris suburb to Algerian parents, said: “It’s just my way of celebrating and saying thank you.
“West Ham fans all clapped and cheered while I was praying. There have been problems with discrimination and racism in the past, but the Premiership is now a very welcoming place.
“I was so elated after scoring that I also crossed my arms in a Hammers symbol. It meant the world to me.”
Feghouli is one of a small group of hugely successful Muslims born in the less salubrious parts of greater Paris who have joined the Premier League.
They include Paul Pogba of Manchester United, N’Golo Kanté of Chelsea, and Riyad Mahrez of champions Leicester, who is a close friend of Feghouli.
“I’m of course very proud to see Muslim players like Riyad doing so well, but they’re not here because they’re Muslims,” said Feghouli. “They’re here because they’re great players.”
He is especially delighted to be wearing the No. 7 shirt with the Hammers, as superstars including Cristiano Ronaldo and Eric Cantona have helped make it legendary.
After successful spells at clubs including Valencia in Spain and Grenoble in France, Feghouli has signed a three-year contract at West Ham but hopes to stay in England longer.
“I’ve always been hugely impressed by Britain and everything it has to offer,” he said. “I used to watch all the London derbies when I was growing up, and loved the determination and courage shown by teams like West Ham. They never gave up.”
However, Feghouli says there is one shirt he would never be able to live up to: Bobby Moore’s No. 6 jersey. It was ‘retired’ by West Ham in 2008 in honor of their most famous international captain.
Moore “summed up West Ham,” said Feghouli. “He remains the ultimate inspiration for all of us. His passion still drives us on to glory.”