RAKAN Mutawaa never thought he would play rugby, let alone represent Qatar at a major international competition. He wanted to continue playing American football, but when Qatar Rugby Federation President Yousef Al Kuwari spotted him during the National Sports Day (NSD) two years ago, his career took a different turn.
“Two years ago during the NSD, I found out there’s an American football team at the ASPIRE Academy. I spoke to the coaches and joined the side immediately. Al Kuwari, who also heads the American Football Committee, watched me during a game. He was convinced that my skills could be translated easily into rugby and told me I should give it a chance. That’s how I switched to this sport,” said Mutawaa.
“I played American football till recently, but I’m happy that I’ve switched to rugby because it’s more popular in Qatar,” said Mutawaa, who has a Bachelor’s degree in History and Politics.
Mutawaa spoke about his life in Doha, the sport and its future in an exclusive interview with Doha Stadium Plus.
How was the transition from American football to rugby?
They’re similar sports, but with different rules. All I needed to do was to know the rules and pick up a little bit of the technique. As far as the moves, steps, running and physicality are concerned, both are similar. Hence, it wasn’t difficult to make the switch.
You’ve played in both Sevens and 15s tournament. What’re you more comfortable with?
They’re different, but I like to play in both versions. Since speed is my forte, Sevens offers me a lot more space while 15s is very exciting. If I can help the 15s side win more titles, it’ll be a lot more rewarding.
What’re your thoughts on the game’s scope in Qatar?
The first season in Qatar was a huge success. We won the Asia Championship Division 3, beating Iran and Lebanon. It’s a success on which we can build the future. We can only get better from here. We’re getting good coaching and I’m very optimistic.
Is it possible for Qatar to go beyond the regional level?
I think we’ve some core players now. If we keep improving, we can do it. We don’t fear any teams. We must continue playing in strong competitions. It’ll only help us improve.
How supportive is your family?
My mother was an athlete during her college days while my father played American football. Sports runs in my genes. My family has been supportive and always comes to watch my games ever since my childhood days in America.
Since you were brought up in America, didn’t you lose contact with the Qatari culture?
This was one of the main reasons why I moved back here in December, 2013. I wanted to get back to my roots and I’m keen to know more about my culture.
Who has been your idol in the sport?
Australian Jarryd Hayne. He recently switched from rugby to American football and played at the highest level. I find myself very similar to him. If I can do anything like him, it’ll be amazing.