KRIS LINDSAY - Monday, July 8, 2013
Sierra Leone had never had a player that has scored a goal in the English Premier League.
Enter Kei Kamara.
The Sierra Leone native, who had fled from his home country with his family as a boy to escape the civil war, had landed in England. "I was called to England to prove myself, to just play in at least one game in the ten that I was going for," remembered Kamara.
The six foot three inch winger from Sporting Kansas City was immediately involved in a battle to keep Norwich City from relegation. In just his second appearance for the Canaries, Kei Kamara headed home a Robert Snodgrass corner kick past United States international Tim Howard, a goal that would prove the difference in a 2-1 victory for Norwich City.
"It's a huge honor, it's a blessing for me. Not knowing that it would be in only my second appearance for Norwich, and for it to be the first goal for a Sierra Leonian in the Premier League, it was an incredible blessing."
His arrival back to Major League Soccer was a relief for Sporting, who were dealing with the loss of Honduran international Roger Espinoza, who had also gone to EPL side Wigan on a permanent transfer.
The return was a bit difficult for the winger. "I felt at home again when I got back to Sporting. At the same time, I felt like I was far behind, because preseason was where the team bonds, and I feel like I missed that with the guys. It kind of hurt me a little bit. I have to work my way back to being friends with everyone."
Sporting Kansas City, currently sitting in second place in the Eastern Conference, has become a home to Kei, who has quickly become a fan favorite. "It is definitely the ‘Blue Hell'," Kamara described. "The fans out here are some of the best in the league, we have the perfect sized stadium for American soccer, and we love it. The city really appreciates what we are doing, and that really helps out."
He went on to compare the fan base on both sides of the pond: "In England, football is number one, but the fan bases of Norwich and Kansas City are equally passionate."
The 28 year old finished 2012 in SKC with a career high goal tally, netting 11 in the season. He was also unselfish with the ball, grabbing eight assists as well. Both totals were career highs for the forward.
Kamara is a fan, not only of the sport, but of it's rapid growth in the United States. "I came into the league in 2006, at 21, when the developmental contract was at just 12,000 dollars," described Kamara. "I think the league minimum now is 44. But not only that, the likes of David Beckham, who have boosted this league up so much that people recognize us out of America."
Kamara, who was a product of Cal State University Dominguez Hills, was named third team All American in his sophomore season. "When we come out of college to join MLS, we were ready. When I played in England, I knew that I had been prepared by MLS to be able to compete in England. The league is growing tremendously, and I know it is not stopping now."
Kansas City will look to make a push towards the MLS Cup this season, and Kei looks forward to being a part of it. "The goal is to win the Eastern Conference, and push ourselves up for MLS Cup."
Up to this point in his career, nothing has stopped the Sierra Leone native from accomplishing more than anyone thought he could yet.