A few months ago Yves Zama wasn’t even aware there was a football club in Fort William – now he’s determined to keep them in the Breedon Highland League.
The Lochaber side travel to Spain Park on Saturday to face North Region Junior champions Banks o’ Dee in the first leg of the relegation play-off.
Having won only one game all season, Fort will be underdogs to preserve their Highland League status.
Striker Zama was one of a host of players brought in by manager Shadab Iftikhar in December.
Having initially been sceptical about making the move to Claggan Park, the 28-year-old has enjoyed himself with Fort.
The forward, who has scored eight goals, said: “Before coming to the club I looked at the results and thought: ‘What am I getting myself into?’
“But Shadab Iftikhar (manager) has turned things around. I know the results haven’t been going our way, but there has been massive improvement in terms of performances and the scorelines.
“We managed to get a win under our belts and that gives us confidence and seeing the improvement gives us hope.
“The manager sold it for me because I’ve known him for seven years and he was my manager at college.
“Initially, I said: ‘No chance am I coming from Preston to Fort William.’
“I didn’t even know there was a team in Fort William, but after a few months of being in my ear he convinced me.
“I’ve really enjoyed it and every single player has worked hard and has enjoyed it.
“We’re still optimistic and we want to keep Fort William in the league.”
Inspiration for Zama watching team-mates and boss fast for Ramadan
Something that inspires Zama in Fort William’s quest to survive are the sacrifices made by some of his team-mates.
Some Fort William players are observing Ramadan this month and as a result have to fast from dawn until sunset while continuing to play.
After half an hour of Fort’s 1-0 loss to Rothes on Tuesday night, there was a short break in play to allow players to break their fast.
Zama added: “Some of the lads have been fasting and so is the manager, so they broke their fast when they could on Tuesday.
“Stuff like that gets you going when you see lads playing after not being able to eat all day because of their religion.
“That inspires me and I think it helps the team as well.”
Dee favourites for play-off
Zama is aware of how difficult Fort William’s task will be against Banks o’ Dee.
The Lochaber men have also had a hectic couple of weeks, having played five games in 11 days to complete their Highland League fixtures.
In their final match against Rothes, they only had 12 players available.
Zama said: “In the play-off we are the underdogs because the way our season has gone – everyone knows it will be difficult.
— Banks O' Dee FC (@banksodeejfc) April 20, 2022
“We also don’t have much depth in our squad. Banks o’ Dee are the favourites.
“We’ll give 100% effort in both games and see what happens as we try to win to stay in the league.
“The mentality of the lads in the changing room is that we all have to believe we can do something.
“We’ll watch Banks o’ Dee to find out about them. We know they’re a good team, but we’ll be giving everything.”