“M”take care of your dignity, take care of your self belief, take care of your trust.” Robert Otiato has been coaching his Mazrouah FC gamers for the closing two hours and, ahead of everybody heads into the night time, it’s time for some ultimate phrases. They have run themselves into the exhausting, pebbly floor however Otiato has a dependancy of constructing them really feel 10 toes tall and each and every face in a tight-knit circle is mounted in his route. “Your talent will open doors for you,” he tells them. “There is a vision. There is a future.
It hasn’t always been easy to see one here, in a bleak and dusty expanse north-west of Doha. Life can be harsh for the workers whose accommodation sits 100 yards behind the pitch, and to which most of Otiato’s team return after the session. It feels a long way from their homes in different parts of Africa; they are in Qatar to earn some money but, in their limited downtime, there are few ways to occupy body and mind.
In January last year Otiato, a 28-year-old Kenyan with eloquent persuasive power, decided to do something about it. He arrived in Qatar almost two years ago, thinking he would be a waiter but instead being employed to load and unload trucks. In his homeland he was a successful goalkeeper for lower-league teams and coached an amateur side, but moving abroad made more economic sense than staying. He noticed the community had no organized outlet for those who wanted to play football. He also realized that he was surrounded by talented, hungry young players who still held hopes of progressing in the sport but had been offered little direction.
Mazrouah, named after the area, was born. Today a squad of up to 30 trains six evenings a week; Sometimes work intrudes but several players have been successful in persuading employers to accommodate their football when devising rotas. At the start Otiato had to clear rocks from the area to create a relatively safe playing space; There were also disputes with South Asian neighbors who used the area for cricket. Now both parties have made room to play side by side and Mazrouah feel they have established a springboard for rapid progress.
“We’re thinking about how we’re going to grow beyond this place,” Otiato says. “This is just the start of it.” Last year the club began playing friendlies against other migrant teams in Doha, gradually increasing the quality of opposition and holding their own. They entered two tournaments and in the second, the well-organised Barwa Champions League, reached the quarter-finals.
Training is serious and impressively structured: Otiato, who says he studies the likes of Jürgen Klopp and Mikel Arteta, sets out cones and oversees a variety of drills. Then the team play an in-house game and the standard, considering the inhospitable location, is high. The keepers can dive fearlessly because carpet has been sourced to cover their goalmouths.
Players contribute 50 Riyals (£11) a month towards Mazrouah’s operation. The sum funds training materials, travel to away games and incentives such as trophies for individual excellence; it has also brought them their own kit, designed and printed via the friend of a player in Kenya. But the club is young and the fee to join Qatar’s best amateur setup, the Supreme Committee-run Community League, doubled this season to 4,000 Riyals (£880). That was prohibitive so they are looking for a sponsor to help them participate and, in addition, find better facilities.
Each of Otiato’s group has a tale. Wycliffe, considered one of his assistant coaches, used to be a number one referee in Kenya and in 2021 used to be named some of the most sensible 3 officers in its Super League. Now he works as a safety guard at a hotel in Doha. “I’ve got a family and couldn’t earn enough in Kenya,” he says. “But I love refereeing, it’s what I do best. If you can do it in Africa, you can do it anywhere. It’s my dream to referee at a World Cup and I’m always optimistic, I pray the chance will come.”
Mazrouah’s captain is Omar, a rangy midfielder with commanding presence on the ball. He arrived in Qatar after accepting a job offer cleaning at a golf club but his real motivation was to develop a football career that started in Kenya’s second tier. It was a setback to learn that, being clubless, he could only attempt to sign for a senior Qatari side once he had lived in the country for four years.
Somebody purporting to be an agent offered to represent him but it didn’t feel right; he bobbed between other amateur teams for more than a year until being enticed to Mazrouah soon after their creation and winning a vote to lead the side. “I like bringing people together and think leadership is my thing,” he says. “I have a plan and I know one day I’ll be a professional player.”
Hamy, a 20-year-old schemer who performed for 2 golf equipment in Uganda, made up our minds to hunt paintings in Qatar as a result of he felt impressed by way of the World Cup. He is a web page officer at some of the gleaming skyscrapers being erected in Lusail, the place the general used to be held, however prays to get his large footballing spoil. Daniel, a Ghanaian who works in safety at a lodge, used to be an attacking right-back in his house nation’s 2d department and was hoping his talent would catch somebody’s consideration.
The identical is going for the Zambians, Gambians and different nationalities who make up Mazrouah’s squad. But few eyes wander to an outpost like this and this is a gargantuan problem, for younger males who’ve arrived with out skilled steerage or enjoy in a number one academy, to make their fortunes this fashion. Otiato believes he’s sitting on a neatly of untapped skill and is intent on giving it a platform. “We have players here who are capable of bigger things,” he says. “My aim is to lead this team from Africa, to Qatar, to beyond.”
There are two different strands to his undertaking. He is aware of the significance of soccer when day-to-day life is so tough. “Some of these guys come from very difficult backgrounds in Africa,” he says. “And in Qatar there is a lot of pressure: the living conditions are not great in some cases. But we don’t complain. I tell them this is a family and we are here to come together, fight and support each other.” He recounts the story of a player who required surgery for an industrial injury and was ready to leave Qatar, but opted to stay because of the connection he felt to Mazrouah.
Otiato also wants Mazrouah to reach a financial position whereby they can regularly support people in their home countries. He wants to assist local teams and also fund education for those who need it, so that they can earn the qualifications that might help them work abroad. They have started by donating to two individuals in Kenya and Uganda but want to scale up their assistance: the point is to gaze forwards while taking care of their roots.
Individually and collectively, there are ambitions here that give life fresh dimensions in an otherwise sterile situation. Otiato and his friends have created something from nothing in a place where none of them could ever have expected to pitch up. “These boys really love each other, I can tell you that,” he says. “When they come here, they know how much they are appreciated.”