x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

Amara Diane proving a dynamo for Al Dhafra

The approachable Ivorian striker has settled in nicely at his new club since making the move from Al Nasr, writes Amith Passela.

Al Dhafra's Amara Diane is enjoying his time with the Pro League side, and scored the winner against Al Jazira. Christopher Pike / The National
Al Dhafra's Amara Diane is enjoying his time with the Pro League side, and scored the winner against Al Jazira. Christopher Pike / The National

Al Dhafra's Amara Diane came through the same youth academy as Yaya Toure and Didier Drogba, he models himself on Ronaldo - the Brazilian one - and his teammates call him the "sugar" of the team.

The Ivorian forward's friendliness and jovial nature add to his popularity and he has been busy making friends at the Abu Dhabi club since his summer move from Al Nasr.

"He gets along well with all his teammates whether it be motivating, encouraging or entertaining them," said the midfielder Abdulraheem Jumaa, the former captain of the UAE, who is on loan from Al Jazira.

"On the pitch he always gives his best. He is a great team man and has the knack to inspire his teammates around him. And off the pitch, he is very friendly, witty and cheerful person."

As a youngster, Diane had always wanted to become a footballer but was faced with opposition from his father.

"My mother was the one who supported me when I wanted to pursue a career in football," he said.

"I lost my mother when I was young and then my father supported me. And, thank God, I managed to make it big time to lead a comfortable life."

Diane graduated from the country's renowned youth academy ASEC Abidjan before moving to FC Mantes in France where he spent more than nine years.

His rise to the top flight began when he moved to Roye, a French fifth division club, in 2000.

He joined the Ligue 2 club Reims in 2003, moved to the Ligue 1 for a season at Strasburg and then to PSG where he played for two years from 2006, the year he made his Ivory Coast debut, to 2008.

When he moved from PSG to Qatar's Al Rayyan there was speculation that financial incentives had led to his decision but he says there were other reasons.

"Some people say I went to Qatar because of the money but that was not the real reason. I had enough money at that time," he said.

"If I want to talk on that matter it will take a very long time. I have no regrets to come and play in Qatar and now in the UAE. I enjoyed my time in Europe and now enjoy my time in the Gulf.

"Had I not got to play for a big team in Europe then I will have a reason to regret. Fortunately for me, I made it to the top-flight club in France and played for my country. I think I made it to the highest point I could reach."

Diane, 30, is looking ahead to his life after football.

"I am in business back in my country and in France," he said. "The main line is real estate and property developing. I will have to eventually stop playing when I am 35 or 36, if I go that far. But I am not decided if I would still be involved in the game when I quit playing."

Diane and his wife have two daughters, Fatima, seven, and Maya, four. They live in Dubai, as does his sister. His older brother plays football in Qatar in the second division.

"My family enjoys the lifestyle in the Gulf," he said. "I spend much of my free time with my wife and two daughters. We all enjoy good food, like to go to the restaurants, the cinema and parks."

Having spent time in France and Qatar, he says he has many fans and friends in those two countries, and now the UAE.

He spent two years at Rayyan and one season at Al Gharafa before arriving at Al Nasr last season. From Nasr he moved to Dhafra as a free agent.

"When I was at Nasr I think I did my job well," he said. "We were runners-up in the Pro League and that was an excellent result.

"I scored many goals and made a lot of assists. I am what I am. I do my best wherever I go and I feel I did a pretty good job for them. They didn't want to renew my contract, which was another matter.

"However, that chapter is over for me and now my entire focus on my new club. Last season, I gave my best to Nasr and this season I will do my best for Dhafra."

Diane scored 10 goals in 24 appearances in all competitions for the Dubai club. He has scored twice, including the winner against Jazira, in five Pro League games for Dhafra.

"When I came and talked to the manager at Dhafra, our task was to play for promotion. Thank God, we made it," he said. "The next target is to stay in the top flight."

Dzemal Hadziabdic, the Dhafra coach, is still trying to work out the player's nature.

"Until now I am trying to understand him," the Bosnian said. "I knew him as a player when I was in Qatar but I am still trying to know him as a person since he moved to Dhafra two months ago.

"We had a meeting recently and I used the word 'adaptation' because we had some differences. I am trying to change my style, mentality, personality or some kind of discipline to understand him. He is not a bad person. He is doing very well as a player, especially the in the 2-1 win over Jazira where he scored the winner.

"We don't have any problems. We need understand each other to achieve our objectives together for the club."