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Dino Maamria interview: From Tunisia To Trentside, diversity in management and Burton survival hopes

By on March 23, 2023 0 22 Views

Dino Maamria interview: From Tunisia To Trentside, diversity in management and Burton survival hopes

Dino Maamria speaks to Sky Sports about being the only African-born manager in English football, challenges faced while growing up in Tunisia and his aim of guiding Burton Albion to League One safety.

As a young boy in south Tunisia, Dino Maamria probably never envisioned that his journey in football would unfold in quite the way it has.Having spent most of his career as a player and coach in the lower leagues with the likes of Stevenage, Rushden & Diamonds and Southport, Maamria is now the only African-born manager in England’s top-four leagues, after Patrick Vieira was sacked by Crystal Palace.

Cardiff boss Sabri Lamouchi is of Tunisian descent, but aside from that Maamria is the only manager in the EFL born in an Arab country.

Not that it particularly fazes the Burton boss.”I don’t think of it too much in that way,” he says. “I am a manager and just try to get on with my job.

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“However, I would love to see more diversity with more African and black managers across the leagues.

“There are no doubt things are changing, you look at people like Darren Moore in our league who is doing an amazing job at Sheffield Wednesday.
“The English game is so diverse now, so it would be excellent to see more managers from ethnic-minority backgrounds, too.”Maamria, 49, has spent most of his career in England, but it was back home in Tunisia where the inspiration behind his journey was born.”It was the 1978 World Cup, Tunisia qualified for the first time and beat Mexico,” he recalls. “As a six- or seven-year-old, that team inspired me and made me fall in love with football. All I wanted to be was a professional footballer.”Where I grew up in the very south of Tunisia, the nearest professional club was about 350 miles away. As an 18-year-old I moved to Tunis to play and that was hard for me at the time. I had to leave my family, but it prepared me for the journey later in my career.”

His gamble paid off. In 1996 he was contacted by the most unlikely of suitors in Burnley, and he took the leap in swapping Tunis for Turf Moor.It was a massive lesson for him, and one he now likes to pass on to his players.”I always tell my players you never know who’s watching,” he says. “Burnley spotted me while playing football in Tunisia and that move was another huge challenge for me. Moving across Tunisia was tough, but to then go to Burnley where there weren’t too many foreign players in the mid-90s was a completely different experience.”I had no agent, the weather was different, the food was different, and the style of football came as a real shock to the system for me.”I had to adapt quickly, but it helped define me and my journey. Being resilient when obstacles were thrown at me is something that has put me in good stead as a coach and a manager. It built my character and personality and that is reflected through the teams I manage.”

Resilience is a common theme within Maamria’s career, and it is a quality that runs through his Burton Albion side. Following Jimmy Floyd Hasselbaink’s departure in September, he stepped up from assistant manager with the Brewers bottom of the table and just one point from the first seven games. Fast forward six months and the Brewers now sit in 18th, six points clear of the relegation zone.”My record suggests I can take over clubs near the bottom of the league and try to help them get out of trouble,” said Maamria, who has previously managed Stevenage and Oldham in the EFL.”That has almost become ingrained in me. But I’m not saying that’s all I can do. Hopefully I have the time to build something special with Burton Albion.”The form tables since Maamria took charge make for good reading. If the season had started when he became manager Burton would be 11th in League One. With one of the smallest budgets in the division, they are still competing with the big hitters in the third tier.”There has been a big change of mentality and personnel at the club,” he says. “When you take a team that is struggling it needs changing. We wanted to maximise every player’s potential and pick up as many points as we could, and I feel like we’ve done that.”That doesn’t mean we aren’t still in a relegation battle; the job is huge and all of our form will mean nothing if we don’t retain our position in League One at the end of the season.”If the players on the pitch continue to share the same passion as the man in charge, then you would be hard-pressed to back against them staying up and then kicking on again next year.

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