Interview - Zakaria Bahous (Atlético Ottawa)
Zakaria Bahous is an Algerian-Canadian football player who currently plays for Atlético Ottawa in the Canadian Premier League. In his first season, Bahous played a key role in helping Atlético Ottawa, which is owned by Spanish club Atlético Madrid, win the regular season championship and reach the final of the play-offs.
We caught up with the Montreal native to talk about his first season at the professional level and his goals for the future.
For starters, can you introduce yourself?
My name is Zakaria Bahous, I’m 21 years old and I play for Atlético Ottawa. I play as a midfielder, but I can also play as a striker or winger. My preferred position is Attacking midfielder.
How did you end up at Atlético Ottawa?
I’m originally from Montreal, I played one season in CEGEP (college) and a few seasons in the PLSQ (Quebec Provincial League) and I got noticed by an agent out there. I won a few trophies and had a good season in CEGEP and that caught the attention of some Canadian Premier League teams. From there, I spoke with my agent and discussed the options and found that Atlético Ottawa was the best fit for me.
For your first season at the professional level, you played a key role in helping Atletico Ottawa win the regular season and reach the final, where you unfortunately lost. Talk to us a bit about the season and the ups and downs of it.
I feel like for a first season, what we did as a team was impressive. On an individual level, being able to take up an important role on the field was a good achievement for me. I grew up always wanting more so as soon as I would achieve a goal I had set for myself, I would want the next one. As competitors that’s how we all are and I feel like that’s what helped us to win the league and reach the final. Unfortunately, some days you win and some days you lose, and as much as I hate that sentence it’s very true. We just have to keep working in order to be winners more often than losers!
What’s your objective for this season, both on a personal level and as a team?
We have to be as good as last year, obviously I’m not aiming for anything less than the title again. This time evidently it will not only be about reaching finals but hopefully winning it as well. On a personal level, I want to be able to show more than last year and produce more results.
Last season, you spent the pre-season in Madrid training at the Atlético Madrid facilities. How was that experience?
Amazing, really amazing .. it was really something different, especially for me with it being my first season and Madrid being my first experience in the professional world. We got to compare ourselves with some of the teams out there, and it went really good.
You have a Spanish coaching staff with a different style and perspective on football compared to Canadian football. What’s it like working with them and learning from them? Obviously it’s different but in a good way. It expands the knowledge we have as players, and they bring something different to each one of us and that makes us a really good and successful team. They’re amazing coaches and we have an amazing staff.
What is your long-term objective?
Like any young player, you always dream of going as far as you can go. I just take things step by step and focus on the season, and hope to get as far as I can get.
What advice would you give young players trying to take their game to the next level?
It’s important to understand how you play, and to keep playing your way of playing football, but it’s also important to listen to your more experienced teammates and coaches and try to take as much as you can from that. At the end of the day, we all play football because we love the game, you just have to combine that with effort and hopefully all goes well.
Where are you originally from in Algeria?
My parents are from Sidi Bel Abbes but I have not been back in a while because of football.
Do you watch the national team play and if so do you have a favorite player?
Yes, of course .. actually, I don’t have a favorite player. Most people would probably say Riyad Mahrez, he’s definitely amazing but it comes with a lot of work from the players around him. So I don’t have one in particular, I just like the entire team that we have.
The Canadian Premier League (CPL) was only launched a few years ago and now provides a path to professional football for young players in Canada, which did not exist before that. What does the CPL mean for you?
The CPL provided a stepping stone to professional football. If you go back five years, most players in Quebec in the PLSQ were thinking the next step would be to move to MLS but nobody was able to make that jump from the semi-pro level to MLS. Now with the CPL, we’ve recently seen a few players go from the CPL to MLS, so it creates a chance and opportunity for players. That’s the difference we have compared to Europe, where there’s so many divisions and there’s a clear path to climb up the ladder. So it’s an opportunity for players to showcase themselves, gain the experience and then make that step to the next level.
Any last words before we wrap up?
I’m just trying to make the most out of every chance I get.
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