QPR playmaker Ilias Chair reveals being told he's not tall or strong enough all his life drives him towards stardom
ILIAS CHAIR is not doing badly for someone told he was not big enough, not strong enough and not good enough.
The QPR playmaker is having a superb season and surely will become their latest star to graduate into the Premier League.
But if Mark Warburton’s team can maintain their upward trajectory including tonight at Derby, he could well be strutting his stuff in the top fight next season at Loftus Road.
Chair, 24, has already scored six times and set up three goals in the league for the Rs this season.
But the midfielder told me: “I’m not supposed to be here according to what I’ve heard in my young career.
“I’m supposed to be playing five-a-side in the streets. That’s what I’ve been told my entire life.
“I’ve heard, ‘You’re not tall enough, you’re not strong enough, you’re just a five-a-side player.’
“That has always motivated me.”
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Chair, 24, has been driven to succeed after being brought up in Antwerp where the odds were stacked against him.
He questioned why his Moroccan father Abdel had to sit alone almost like an outcast while parents of other players in his youth team would mix and socialise.
The QPR ace said: “At that moment of time, I didn’t realise it like that but, once I got older, I started going to my brother’s games. I started to see it. You ask yourself why.
“Racism is there – especially in Belgium. As Moroccans and North Africans, we were victims of racism a lot because there was a lot of crime and we’d get the blame for it.
“At the end of the day, that type of world worked – that’s how people thought for a long time and it needs to change.
“But since I’ve been here in England I’ve always been treated well.
“There was a lot of crime in Antwerp. It was drugs, knife crime and stealing. As a young kid it was tough seeing that. I just wanted to play football.
“I’ve never received anything damaging. I’ve had a couple of team-mates who have gone through bad patches but I’ve just made sure I’ve been around for them because I know how they feel.”
Chair says his parents and grandparents – along with football – made sure his life did not go down the wrong path.
In an area of Antwerp where crime was all around him, the midfielder said the power of football made sure he shunned that.
He said: “There was a lot of crime. It was drugs, knife crime and stealing. As a young kid it was tough seeing that. I just wanted to play football. I didn’t understand anything else.
“I was never tempted. My parents and grandparents did a fantastic job in keeping me on the right path.
“I’m a Muslim and God has kept me on that path too – as has football.
“I’ve always been in love with football too much to think about anything else. My priorities in life have always been football, family and God.
“I was never put into a position to turn to crime. If I’d lost my mind or focus, then it could’ve gone another way.
“You can either sink or swim – but, in my opinion, everyone has a dream and the positive thinking to make it in life in a good way.
“There is no need for crime and all that stuff.”
After failing to make the grade in youth football with Club Brugge, Chair got into the professional ranks at Lierse where he played second-division football at the age of 17.
Fulham rejected him during a trial but QPR snapped him up at the age of 19.
I don’t know anyone who has been successful that hasn’t had a bad spell in their life or failed at some point.
Former boss Ian Holloway, though, chucked him on loan to Stevenage, where he impressed and was described by their ex-manager Dino Maamria as “the best player that has ever worn the Stevenage shirt and played in League Two.”
But since Warburton has taken charge, Chair made his breakthrough and established himself as one of the first names on his team-sheet.
He said: “I don’t know anyone who has been successful that hasn’t had a bad spell in their life or failed at some point.
“You have to fail to achieve success. That is what I believe.
"I don’t mind failing because when I am back on top of it I will make it right.
“The key is to stay consistent in anything you do.”
Chair has seen the likes of Eberechi Eze move to Premier League club Crystal Palace and Bright Osayi-Samuel join Turkish giants Fenerbahce, where he is playing Europa League football.
And that inspires his ambition further to climb the football ladder.
Chair said: “It’s of course a big motivation – especially when they tell me I can play in their leagues week in, week out.
“I can’t thank these guys enough because they’ve show a route for other players to make it to the highest level.
“It’s our ambition at QPR, as a team, to do something special this season. As you know, the Championship is a tough league. These opportunities don’t come around very often and so we’re going to maximise our opportunities and hopefully we can do something special this season.”
Such a bunch of southern softies
NORTHERNERS like calling anyone born south of the Watford Gap “southern softies”.
I was wrapped up warm at Bloomfield Road for Blackpool v West Brom on Tuesday night in my winter coat, scarf, hat and gloves.
But when I arrived at the ground I was stunned to see some Seasiders fans wearing shorts and t-shirt!
I asked if they were mad? “You’re a southern softie,” replied one.
Then – on Saturday – I was a few miles south down the road at Preston and I didn’t see a single Lilywhite fan not wrapped up warm.
You southern softies, Preston fans!
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