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IAAF.org: Ramzi takes military steps to greatness

Boulami is the coach

08.07.2004

Monte-Carlo – It was at the end of 2001 that the then out of work 21 year-old Rashid Ramzi who was living in the small Moroccan town of Safi, received the most influential telephone call of his life.

Junior talent

At the time Ramzi was a very promising runner and had been part of the Moroccan national junior development plan towards the end of the 1990’s. Most significantly in Tunis in 1999 he displayed his growing talent in the African Junior Championships where he took the silver medal in the 1500m (3:47.13) behind Kenyan Peter Kipkoech (3:45.81).

Economic reality

Yet while athletically life was improving, Ramzi was having to face up to the uncomfortable reality that he was living on the breadline. There was no consistent work available to him, and as he moved out of the junior age group it seemed impossible for him to make a living and continue his running at a high level.

Then in late 2001 came an extraordinary offer by telephone from a former friend from his home town, who a few years before had moved to the Gulf state of Bahrain to seek employment. Basically, as Ramzi recounted the friend told him, “come to Bahrain. Here there are a lot of possibilities for work and if you join the military service, as well as the regular pay you can train in the best conditions provided by the military’s own sports team.”

Ramzi jumped at the chance, and by the end of the year he was in Bahrain earning approximately 750US dollars a month. Also, as is automatic for all foreigners who join the armed forces of Bahrain he was given a Bahraini passport and immediate citizenship.

Now 23 years of age Ramzi still also retains a Moroccan passport, confirming that “you keep this for life,” whatever other passports you acquire.

“I moved to Bahrain under my own economic motivation. There was no approach from the Government, it was my personal private choice which only came after the advice my friend gave me. I was desperate to find a way to live.”

But “I am a Moroccan, as I was born a Moroccan,” is Ramzi’s honest reply to the question of where his heart remains.

Boulami is the coach

Now a corporal, Ramzi has been coached since 2001 by Khalid Boulami, the Moroccan 5000m runner who won two World championship silver medals (1995 & 1997) and an Olympic bronze (1996) during his distinguished career.


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