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Mohamed Ouédraogo: A positive example of patience and hard work

Last weekend in the Austrian Bundesliga, another talented young African footballer made a major impression in a country which continues to be a good destination for players from the continent to take their first steps in European football. Rheindorf Altach player Mohamed Ouédraogo made his league debut, playing the full ninety minutes and contributing an assist on the late equalizer for Altach in a 1-1 home draw against FC Blau-Weiß Linz. Mohamed’s league debut follows his full debut for the club in a cup match against Leoben the weekend before, a full year after joining the club.

For a young African player making his first transfer abroad, patience was always going to be an essential virtue for Mohamed Ouédraogo. The Burkina Faso under-20 international completed a transfer from Burkinabé top division side SC Majestic to Austrian Bundesliga club SC Rheindorf Altach in February 2023, a move that came months after Ouédraogo was named to the Best XI at the WAFU-UFOA Zone B under-20 competition that also served as a qualifying tournament for the 2023 Africa U-20 Cup of Nations. But at the time he joined Altach, the club was engaged in a fight against relegation where using an untested player like Mohamed was not a desired option for the club which was under heavy pressure to maintain its top division status.

Altach did know plenty regarding the potential of Mohamed. A left sided player who typically featured as a fullback with Majestic, the player known to his family and friends as “Momo” distinguished himself with a high level of technical ability when attacking on the flank. Already trusted with the duties of taking penalty kicks for Majestic by the time he was nineteen years of age, Momo scored six goals during the 2021-22 campaign as the club finished runner-up within one point of champions Rail Club Kadiogo. A club that is operated by president Amado Traoré alongside its affiliated academy called Académie Foot Plus (AFP), Majestic also produced current AFC Bournemouth and Burkina Faso national team forward Dango Ouattara who came from the same generation of AFP graduates as Momo.

Mohamed Ouédraogo during his time with the Burkina Faso under-20 national team

The plan was for Mohamed to adapt by playing for Altach’s reserve team in the third tier of Austrian football, something that the now 21-year-old understood well upon joining: “I liked it a lot (upon my arrival), I was well received in the club. I had six months to adapt and prove myself in the club’s reserve team”, said Mohamed to Pan-Africa Football. One thing that worked in the favor of Mohamed was the presence of a fellow French-speaking African, Cameroonian midfielder Djawal Kaiba, who joined a few months later after plenty of experience with top Cameroonian club Coton Sport in the CAF Champions League.

It is a successful adaptation so far for Mohamed (L) at Altach, who was joined a few months later in the reserve team by Cameroonian midfielder and fellow French speaker Djawal Kaiba (R)

Altach were able to retain their Bundesliga status by the conclusion of the 2022-23 season and Mohamed was promoted to the first team for the current season. The first half of the campaign required more patience, however, due to a different issue:

“During the preseason I was happy to show what I am capable of but unfortunately I had a thigh injury and I could not continue with the team. After some time to recover, Thank God, I came back thanks to the physio of the club who helped me a lot to return to my best level physically. I then played a few games with the reserve team…I didn’t give up but I didn’t have the chance to play in the first phase of the Bundesliga season.”

Ouédraogo in action with the reserve team of Altach

There were plenty of doubts during this difficult period when Mohamed was injured and not playing for the senior team with thoughts of perhaps attempting to secure a loan transfer to find playing time. However, Altach did not entertain the thought of loaning Mohamed out and the extended winter break in Austrian football allowed Momo to regain his fitness before competitive action resumed at the beginning of February. After participating in a series of friendly matches with the first team during January, Mohamed received his first team debut against Leoben in the Austria’s domestic cup competition, the ÖFB Cup, a match that resulted in defeat but saw him play the full match. A week later his league debut arrived where his assist helped Altach earn a point in the 1-1 draw with Linz.

In the year building up to his full debut with Altach, Mohamed was tested at different positions including central defense and further up the pitch on the left wing after playing for the reserve team at his usual left back position. Against Leoben, Momo played as a left back before being used at the left wing position against Linz. Mohamed reflected on his experience at Altach so far:

“Today I want to thank all those who helped me because at a certain point the morale was not there and thanks to the advice and encouragement (the physio at the club, my teammates, former teammates, etc.), things are much better now. I’ve learned a lot, I enjoy playing football here and I am happy.”

Mohamed is excited for what the second half of the 2023-24 season brings as Altach appear set to battle for top division status once again, currently sitting in tenth position in the 12-team Bundesliga: “I will still work hard to achieve my goals and especially contribute with all my energy with my teammates to the common goal of the club.” Now having proved himself as a versatile left sided player who can contribute in defense or the attack, there appear to be plenty of opportunities ahead for Momo as he looks to find success for both club and country.

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