Organiser of Indian football tournament transforms lives
Mohamed Qutub arrived in Doha from India in 1993, a young man of 22 looking to make his way in the world. Back then, no one could have foreseen the impact he would have on local community football, his climb up the professional ladder or the lengths to which he would go to create a genuine sense of community among Indian expatriates.
However, after 23 years, although he wouldn't admit it himself, Mohamed has become an integral part of the Indian expatriate football community, calling captains of industry and construction workers alike his friends.
"After I landed in Qatar, I simply observed the country and our community," he says of his first community experiences in Qatar. In time, however, he would start a medical camp for construction workers, lead the Indian expatriate youth association, providing expatriates' children with opportunities to play sports, and, eventually, found the biggest amateur Indian football league in Qatar.
The Qatar Indian Association for Sports and Games (QIA), a group set up to identify opportunities for a small group of Indian expatriates to play their favourite sports in Qatar, was a small, independent, organisation when its members asked Mohamed for advice on how to run things. Even while working full-time as a Geologist at Qatar Petroleum with only his evenings and weekends to devote to the community, Mohamed took the initiative and promptly turned the QIA into the leading Indian expatriate group in Qatar, drawing members from across the country and boasting sponsors from around the world.
"The QIA started as an independent body but when I came I told them they had to change to be bolder, to go nationwide. Today, our community is a role model for other expat communities in Qatar," he explains.
Recognising the positive impact sport has on society, Mohamed's main objective was to refocus the QIA on football, a surprising choice given the preference of the QIA's members. "Indians love cricket but we want to build a culture of football as well," he explains. "Football brings discipline, brotherhood. It is more than just 22 players on a field. It symbolises a good, civilised society."
Now in its fourth year, the QIA Champions League, the QIA's flagship event, is unique in Qatar. The tournament is played at the historic Doha Stadium – the first stadium in the country – has teams named after Indian states and attracts thousands of Indian football fans week in, week out. Unsurprisingly, given its effective use of football as a tool for social and human development, the SC's Community Engagement team was delighted to receive the first application for its new Community Grant Scheme from Mohamed and his team. After a careful evaluation of the concept, the Community Grant was allocated to cover a proportion of the tournament's costs.
"We realised the positive impact this tournament has on the local Indian community in Qatar and were delighted to offer our support when they asked," Khalid Al Jumaily, SC Community Engagement Manager, said at the opening match. "I encourage anyone else who, like Mohamed, has a vision for their community to come forward and make an application to our new grant scheme. We can provide the resources to help your community if you have the energy and the desire."
Reflecting Mohamed's rising importance in the Indian football community, K. M. Mather, Vice President of the All India Football Association and President of the Kerala Football Association, also attended the opening match and he, too, praised its organisation: "Indian football is going from strength to strength and all cooperation between India and the global footballing community is welcome," he said. "The Supreme Committee's support for grass roots initiatives such as this will ensure football continues to grow in popularity among our diverse community in Qatar and will raise awareness of the 2022 FIFA World Cup QatarTM back home."
Looking to the future, Mohamed explains that the QIA hopes to start coaching India's expatriate youth in football, building on its already strong relationships with schools. "Living and working in the host country of a World Cup, it is the responsibility and duty of all expatriates to support the country unconditionally as it prepares for the tournament," Mohamed concludes. "I am 45 years old. I have never seen a World Cup in my life. This is my chance. This might be my children's only chance. Qatar has given us a chance."
"I hope that many Indians will come to watch. They can come easily, many are already working here or have relatives here. The final ingredient is football passion, which we're striving towards at every opportunity."