Mahazi embraces 'crazy' K League rise

Anna Harrington
Former Wanderers midfielder Rashid Mahazi (r) will seek to make an impact when the K League starts

Rashid Mahazi still can't quite get his head around his rapid rise.

Less than a year ago, Mahazi was at Victorian NPL2 club Moreland Zebras, preparing for a winter of playing before a handful of spectators on the football pitches of suburban Melbourne.

On Saturday, the football world will be watching when he lines up for Incheon United against Daegu FC in their K League 1 season opener.

"Early on I remember thinking before a game 'S***, a few months ago I was playing NPL2' and in my head (back then) thinking (about) my football career: 'I've maybe got to let that go,'" Mahazi, who joined Incheon last July, told AAP.

"Now I'm playing in probably the biggest league in Asia, or at least one of the biggest - it's a pretty crazy journey I've had."

Mahazi is acutely aware of the opportunity the K League kick-off presents.

As the first major league to resume amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the global football community will be focused on the players featuring this weekend.

"You can put yourself in the shopfront window I guess," he said.

"It's awesome, When you're growing up you play to get to the highest level and play in front of the biggest crowds - that's your biggest dream.

"So the more people watching, the more exciting and the more enjoyable the whole process is."

Melbourne-born Mahazi's sporting career has never been conventional.

As a youngster, he spent time at Argentinian clubs River Plate and Independiente, and later joined Melbourne Victory as a 21-year-old in 2013.

The midfielder then took time away from soccer in 2017 following the death of his father, before returning with Moreland in 2018.

Mahazi, 28, spent the 2018-19 season at Western Sydney but was back in the NPL2 last year when he received a text that changed his life.

"I was having dinner and my agent sent me a message saying 'this club's looking at you and there could be a possibility - nothing certain, just giving you a heads-up,'" he said.

"Maybe 15 minutes later they sent through an offer and then pretty much the next day I was on a flight.

"It happened really, really fast ... I was in my off-season so I wasn't (match) fit and within a week and half I was starting.

"In about two weeks I'd gone from my off-season to starting a game over here."

This weekend, Mahazi's contrasting football journey takes yet another turn.