- FC Kenya flying their home flag in Qatar’s top amateur league
- Team has evolved from friends playing in the park
- Leading figure has eyes on rising even higher
FC Kenya’s humble origins can be traced back to Friday kickabouts in the park. The players gathered simply to catch up with friends and enjoy their day off. A decade later, however, and thanks to the stirring drive and passion of one man in particular, the club now boasts a fanbase, along with founder member status of Qatar’s leading amateur football league.
And if John Ngurugwe gets his way, this is only the start. His dream is to one day see FC Kenya compete in the professional ranks of Qatari football.
“What I want is for this football team to carry on and grow into something even bigger,” said Ngurugwe, who plays as the team’s goalkeeper. “You never know, one day it might be part of the Qatar Stars League.”
Thanks to his involvement with FC Kenya, Ngurugwe has become a popular and well-known member of the Kenyan community in Qatar. And one of the main reasons for his status is the unifying power of football.
“I am a person who likes reaching out to people,” said Ngurugwe, who works as an HSSE Officer at UCL Qatar. “When I first came to Qatar, I thought football was the best way to reach out to other Kenyans in the country.”
Those Friday kickabouts were given a new lease of life when Ngurugwe joined them in 2009, as team captain Eric Otwal recalls.
“About six of us used to play every week,” said Otwal. “It was a way to enjoy our day off and we’d discuss family and work issues, sharing what’s going on in the world.”
Otwal continued: “We used to play friendlies until John came. When he joined the team, he came up with new ideas. At first, nobody knew much about Kenyans here, but now this club has a fan base and people come to cheer us on.”
The club’s chairman, Athman Hamis, remembers Ngurugwe’s liveliness during those early games. “He would get changed and put on his gloves, ready to play his heart out between the posts.”
Very soon, the weekly Kenyan kickabout began to be taken more seriously. “We started growing and getting more people involved,” said Ngurugwe. “We started to realise we had a very good environment for football and looked at moving things forward. We decided to create a club.”
FC Kenya now has 60 players on its database, with a xem bong da truc tuyen core squad of 30 training every week at UCL Qatar facilities, which Ngurugwe organises through his employers. “When you train here, it doesn’t matter where you work, it doesn’t matter where you go to church or where you worship. We come as a team, we come as one family,” said Ngurugwe.
“We have so many young kids in the team with great potential. We even have players who played in the leagues in Kenya but they couldn’t get better pay or join the national team – so they ended up coming to Qatar for work.”
Running the team is always a challenge, with work commitments and transportation costs affecting the squad size on match days. But as former professional player Davis Ayala explains, Ngurugwe’s outreach efforts and strong organisational skills bring everyone together.
“We have people from the hotel industry, the service industry, construction. Some people come from Umm Salal and the Industrial Area, others come from Al Khor.”