"My family is from Asilah, a small village in the north west of Morocco. My father, who is a car mechanic, arrived in Belgium with his boss to buy a car in 1974 and decided to stay here. He married my mother in 1977, and she joined him in Brussels. Except for two cousins, all my family is still in Morocco. Since I was young, I have returned every year to spend two months in Asilah. This was important, as it allowed me to stay connected to my Moroccan roots and understand the Moroccan culture."
I started to play football when I was 8 years old. First I played only in my neighborhood, but my father decided to put me in an official team. I later played for a team called 'Etoile Marocaine' which was a regional football team created by the Moroccan community. I played with them for two years before being signed to a first division football team when I was seventeen.
Football helped me to find my place in the Belgian community. When I started to play, the team was a place where different cultures were mixed; there were Belgian players as well as Congolese, Turks and Italians. The football pitch was often a place where you could find people from the different waves of immigration that Belgium has experienced. It taught me from a very young age that we are living in a multi-cultural community and that you do not stick to one culture—you can be Belgian and Moroccan.
When I was around 30, I signed back with Etoile Marocain and had a special role in the team. I was captain but also a mentor for the young, mostly Moroccan players. I tried to help them to understand their place in the community, how they should behave, how to avoid the temptations of criminality and so on. Those young people have plenty of potential, but unfortunately lack of guidance and often fall into the trap of poverty.
With my MBA in hand, I will be looking for opportunities in the Middle Eastern markets. By being fluent in two languages I want to create linkages between people, markets, cultures."