ORANGEBURG, N.Y. – He was born in Bern, Switzerland and lived much of his life in Vienna, Austria. But Ismael Tajouri-Shradi identifies himself as Libyan.
It’s where his parents are from, where his father, Tajouri, played – as a right winger.
“My blood is Libyan,” Tajouri-Shradi told MLSsoccer.com. “Of course I don’t live so long in Libya, but my family comes from Libya. I can say I am from Libya.”
The 23-year-old New York City FC winger was too young to watch his father play in person, but he see videos and pictures of “a big player on a small team.” His older brother, Shradi, was also with him at Fortuna 05, his first club in Austria, before hanging up his soccer boots to pursue a career as a pilot.
“From when I was small I would play all the time football,” Tajouri-Shradi said. “I am happy that my family is a sports family because it was my dream always to play football.”
Tajouri-Shradi started playing soccer in Vienna, Austria where his father moved for work. As a young boy he would dream of one day making it big, like his idol Robinho, the Brazilian forward who was a standout at Real Madrid, Manchester City and Milan.
Tajouri-Shradi came up through the youth ranks at Austria Wien before going on loan to Rheindorf Altach. He returned to Die Veilchen where he scored eight goals in 49 appearances.
That sports family, which consists of four sisters and two brothers, is spread across the globe from Belgrade, Serbia, to Egypt and Libya.
And now New York City.
It’s a place Tajouri-Shradi has only seen in movies and heard about from friends. He planned to visit during vacation, but then NYCFC showed interest and a short time later he signed with the club in January.
He was soon on a plane to Florida and then Los Angeles and before he knew it, the regular season had started.
Being a tourist in his new hometown will have to wait. But Tajouri-Shradi is in no hurry.
“I have not had the time to see anything, but I have no pressure,” he said. “I hope than I can stay here for more years and then I will see everything from New York.”
Off the field, Tajouri-Shradi is quiet. Not shy, NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira said, but “humble and really respectful.”
“I think he needs a little more time to find his spot in the dressing room,” Vieira said.
On the field, the Libyan is finding success in a New York minute. With star forward David Villa sidelined the last two weeks with a calf injury, Tajouri-Shradi has ably filled the void with three goals, including both in a 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution, which helped him earn a spot on the MLS Team of the Week presented by Audi for Week 4.
According to Vieira, Tajouri-Shradi is just scratching the surface of his immense potential.
“We know he’s talented, we know he’s really good with the ball, he can score goals, he’s working well for the team, he’s got a really good spirit,” Vieira said. “It’s just about how much he wants to develop himself. We can give him the tools, we will work with him, but then it’s the players on the field who have to put the energy, the commitment, the desire and then we will se what’s going to happen.”