The first new face of the project NK Maribor 2018 to join us is Kassim Doumbia, so it’s only fair to let him introduce himself first. Coming to Ljudski vrt was not completely unfamiliar for the 27-year-old Malian with a Belgian passport. But when he was here in the summer, he had no idea that in six months’ time, he’ll be leaving the land of the geysers and coming to the city on the banks of the Drava River.
He impressed everyone during the two matches between the champions of Slovenia and Iceland. But a couple of our players caught his attention as well.
“The player I remember most is number 9, Tavares. And of course Šuler, with whom I played at Gent. After the match, I also spoke with Marwan Kabha, so I know some of my new teammates. It’s always good to come to a place that you know. Even if it’s just a few players. That way, you feel at home sooner.”
What was his first reaction after receiving an offer from Ljudski vrt?
“Maribor? Great, I’m coming! I had no second thoughts. I accepted the offer immediately. Maribor have made a big name for themselves in the European competitions in the past couple of years. I’ve checked all the information and I know that I’ve joined the most successful team in Slovenia. I’ve played here already, I’ve got to know the stadium, I’ve seen the city, and I’m happy Maribor will be my next stop.”
Mali is an important footballing country. Seydou Keita, Mahamadou Diarra, Mohamed Sissoko and Frederic Kanoute top the list of the most famous players from Mali who have achieved great things in football. Our new defender’s first stop after leaving his home country was Belgium.
“When I was 18, scouts from Gent saw me during an international match, and I moved to Belgium. But I didn’t get a chance to play for Gent because Marko Šuler was playing in the same position (he laughs). Then, I was loaned to FC Brussels, after which I returned to Gent. After that, I signed for Waasland-Beveren. I was a regular player there and after my contract ran out, I moved to Iceland, where I played a lot of international games. When I was younger, I was a goalkeeper for a while, then I was an attacker and an offensive midfielder. After they moved me to the heart of the defence, they stopped changing my position. But I retained some of my goal-scorer’s instinct, which is why I score four or five goals per season. I help the forwards during corner kicks and free kicks. My primary role, however, is to play well at the back.”
Despite playing regularly in Iceland, he did not make the step from the national under 21-team to the first team. Maybe this will happen during his stint as Ljudski vrt, as was the case with Marwan Kabha. Despite being aware of strong competition for a place in the team, he isn’t shy about letting his ambitions be known.
“When you play against a club, you start following them more closely. With Hafnarfjördur, we were relegated to the Europa League play-off, where we lost against Braga, whereas Maribor eliminated Hapoel and qualified for the Champions League. My new teammates played well in the group stage as well, and I know I have my work cut out. It won’t be easy to get into the first team, but you must believe in yourself. As a player at a big club, you must have big goals and always keep your eyes on what’s ahead.”
On the pitch, he’s tough, but off of it, he’s a calm person. He describes himself as a family man and promises to be completely focused on his tasks in the purple jersey right from the first training, when the players return on 10 January.
“I have two kids, a five-year-old son and a two-year-old daughter. I’m a family man. I like being at home, spending time with my family and watching TV, especially films. I rarely go to bars, because I neither drink nor smoke. In my time in Maribor, I’ll be completely focused on football. I’ll try to play my part in new achievements. I want to help my team win another league title and I hope we will play in the Champions League next year as well.”