‘Your talent will open doors’: the club in Qatar giving African players reason to dream

The worker-formed Mazrouah FC in Doha offers hope and direction to players far from home – and even a potential route into the professional game

“Maintain your dignity, maintain your confidence, maintain your belief.” Robert Otiato has been training his Mazrouah FC players for the last two hours and, before everyone heads into the night, it is time for some final words. They have run themselves into the hard, pebbly ground but Otiato has a habit of making them feel 10 feet tall and every face in a tight-knit circle is fixed in his direction. “Your talent will open doors for you,” he tells them. “There is a vision. There is a future.”

It has not 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.

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