Designated Player

Kamara scores in return to Sierra Leone National Team: “Happy to be part of it”

Kei Kamara solo

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – When Kei Kamara’s country called, he answered.

Kamara hadn’t featured for his native Sierra Leone in nearly a year – a self-imposed absence because of a dispute with the Sierra Leone Football Association – but ahead of last weekend’s critical Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against the Ivory Coast, he felt the pull of his homeland.

“It was a lot of phone calls and a lot of pressure,” Kamara said. “I’d been out of it for a little while, but really, to be asked by not just the players, but by the sports ministry and the people in the country and everyone that wanted me to be part of that game (was special).”

Kamara, who turned 32 last week, also relished the opportunity to play in front of his family, who hadn’t seen him play live since his last appearance for the Leone Stars last September.

“For me, it’s all about family,” Kamara said. “With my family out there, I really thought it was time for me to be a part of it for them .They don’t get to see me play that much. It was something good.”

Unfortunately for the Leone Stars, their result against the Ivory Coast was good – just not good enough. Sierra Leone needed a victory over the Elephants to top their group and qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations, but the match finished 1-1, sending the Ivory Coast through as group winners.

Kamara did score Sierra Leone’s only goal – a deft, glancing header to equalize in the second half – and had a late chance that would’ve given the visitors a famous victory cleared off the line. It was Kamara’s first international goal in two years.

Despite the disappointment of not qualifying, Kamara was left pleased with his decision to rejoin the national team, and continues to beam with pride for the tiny West African nation of seven million.

“The result didn’t come out the way we wanted it to, but just to be part of history like that, playing against the defending African champions – and not only that, but Ivory Coast is the biggest team in Africa,” Kamara said. “We were able to get such good results against them. It’s a good thing for us. I was just happy to be part of it.”

Now, of course, Kamara’s focus shifts back to Major League Soccer and the Revolution’s upcoming meeting with East leaders New York City FC. The powerful striker will once again be available for selection on Saturday after missing last weekend’s win over the Colorado Rapids.

“New York City is a really good team and they always play really well,” Kamara said. “Right now, I’m just really trying to feed off the energy the guys had last weekend and hopefully continue to build from that.”