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Emotional Sharjah return for Tractor duo Shojaei and Khatibi

Sharjah: Group B of the 2021 AFC Champions League brings a heart-warming story of a reunion after 15 years as Tractor FC head coach Rasoul Khatibi and captain Masoud Shojaei return to their old stomping ground.

At the age of 36, Shojaei is just six years his manager’s junior. Both men were part of the Islamic Republic of Iran squad that competed in the 2006 FIFA World Cup. That summer after their return from Germany, young midfielder Shojaei (20) and forward Khatibi (26) were recruited by UAE side Sharjah FC.

While Khatibi lasted just half a season at Sharjah, scoring four goals before moving to fellow UAE side Emirates Club, Shojaei stayed put, establishing himself as a fan favourite at Sharjah Stadium and becoming one of the league’s finest midfielders over two seasons before earning a big money move to Spanish La Liga side Osasuna where he would go on to make over 100 appearances.

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Nearly 15 years later, fate would have it that Khatibi and Shojaei are united at Tractor, helping the club qualify to the 2021 AFC Champions League where they were pitted against none other than their former club Sharjah, coached by their former teammate and club captain at the time Abdulaziz Al Anbari, and in a group that is hosted at the Sharjah Stadium.

“I had some really good memories of my time spent here in Sharjah,” said Khatibi in the pre-match press conference at Sharjah Stadium as his Tractor side prepared to face Uzbekistan’s Pakhtakor on Matchday One.

“I had many good friends and I still keep a good relationship with them. I have friends at the club administration like Sheikh Ahmed [Al Thani, former Sharjah FC President]. Head coach Abdulaziz Al Anbari is a good friend of mine and he was my captain back then. I would like to experience those good memories again.”

Shojaei spent the next decade of his career between Spain, Greece and Qatar before eventually returning home to Iran where he joined Tractor in 2018.

“I am very happy to be back here after 15 years,” said the Tractor captain.

“In that time, I did not have the opportunity to return here, neither for sporting nor for personal reasons. I want to thank the players and fans of Sharjah FC and the administration that was very helpful throughout my time here. I remembered all the good memories I had here and that gave me a very good feeling being back in the city. I look forward to stepping out to the pitch and playing on this ground again.”

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