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  • Writer's pictureSoccer Down Here

Sunday Set Piece: Karim Tmimi

Being born and raised in Poitiers, France, Karim Tmimi saw the beautiful game everywhere he went. There were always kids playing soccer in the streets, but that’s not why he chose the sport. 

“It is a way to link with your friend and make friends. Back home, in France or in Morocco, you always see kids playing,” said Tmimi. “It’s the easiest sport to play because you just need a ball.” 

Tmimi played for the fifth tier French Side US Chauvigny as well as attending school. For many international athletes, it is very hard to continue to play at a high level of soccer and to go to school at the same time. Karim had to make a decision on what was best for him, when the head coach of Georgia Gwinnett College, Steve Decou, gave him the opportunity to do both.

“It was perfect for me. I wanted to get out of my comfort zone because I’m from a small town back home, and I was ready to make a big step,” said Tmimi. “I went overseas, and it was the best decision of my life, to be honest.”

Tmimi played for the Grizzlies from 2020 to 2022 where he finished his college career with 36 goals, which is a program record, and 18 assists. Even with so many accolades at the collegiate level, it wasn’t an easy road for the striker. 

“The probability for me to sign professionally when you play NAIA are really small because we don’t have drafts,” said Tmimi. “The lesson that I took from this is that you always have to believe, and you don’t have any regrets after you try everything to make it.”

A huge issue when it comes to playing at different collegiate levels, like DI, DII, NAIA, etc., is that many people believe that there is a difference in talent at each level. A lot of people look at NAIA or Division III and believe that there is a lower level of talent when that couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

“When you come to America, there are some people like me that have some complication with the language because it's not my first language. Sometimes you cannot go to those big schools because your level of school is not good enough,” said Tmimi. “So at the end, we get oriented to NAIA to have more help to make sure that we are going to have a degree at the end of the process, and that's why there are a lot of good players playing in NAIA.” 

Tmimi also touched on how much the sport has grown, especially in Georgia over the past few years. Many players play in Sunday leagues and UPSL who are extremely talented players. He even plays soccer with some guys who have never played in clubs, and they are extremely talented. Tmimi highlights what can make a player successful, no matter if they are professional or not. 

“It’s not where you are, it's really what you do with the sport. There are some people that have a lot of talent, but they don’t have the work ethic,” said Tmimi. “That’s something you need to have too, but the talent is everywhere. I’m really sure about that.”

Many fans can find Tmimi on the pitch with Atlanta United 2, but he is also taking on a coaching role with Kalonji Soccer Academy. He joined KSA as a player back when he was playing at Georgia Gwinnett College, and then was asked to be a coach. 

“I just fell in love with it, and the way they help the community. It’s a big family, and here in America, it’s really expensive to sign up your kid to play soccer,” said Tmimi. “Some people don’t really have the money to register their kid to play while back home, it’s almost free. I was really surprised by that.”

Tmimi wanted to help the kids who don’t have the money to sign up for the rec leagues because the talent can come from anywhere whether parents have money or not. 

“As a professional, it’s a good example for some of the kids. When they see us, they can see that everything is possible,” said Tmimi. “I came overseas from another country at 22-23, and they are still young, they’re American, and they see the future in front of them. I’m a good example to show them that you have to believe it.”

Tmimi is using coaching to help him be a better leader on the pitch for the 2s and off of the pitch. Coaching has helped him to learn how to manage people better and to get people to trust you. 

“I have an international business degree, so if one day I want to own a company and lead a group of people that will work for me, I think it’s really good practice before I get there,” said Tmimi.

Tmimi is one of the leaders on the pitch for the 2s, and is leading by example for many of the younger players who play alongside him. He is not only leading his team to success in the 2024 season, but he is leading future generations of soccer players who dream of being professionals. 

“When you have a bad decision, or a bad day, a bad moment, don't keep thinking about it because you cannot change the past, but you can influence the future and act in the present,” said Tmimi when asked about what soccer has taught him. “It’s the same in life. I'm not someone who regrets things. Sometimes you don't really have time to think you have to let your instincts speak for you. I have always been like this and that's how I am happy with my life and what I do.”

by Madison Crews

(photos: ATLUTD 2)

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