Kei Kamara earning Norwich City some extra fans in Sierra Leone
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It’s not just Norwich where Kei Kamara’s match-winning cameo against Everton made an impact – because the Sierra Leone striker is leaving football fans back home with some tough decisions to make.
The Premier League is a big deal across most of Africa, Sierra Leone included. But while the choice of clubs to support is usually a shortlist restricted to English football’s big hitters, Kamara’s weekend heroics are threatening to add Norfolk’s finest to the choices.
Kamara’s appearance as a second-half substitute saw him score City’s equaliser before Grant Holt earned all three points at Carrow Road on Saturday.
And not only did Kamara’s majestic leap bring him a first goal in English football since his January loan switch from MLS side Sporting Kansas City – it also saw him become the first Sierra Leonean to score in the top-flight.
“It was the big news over the weekend and it is still the big news, here in Sierra Leone and where I live in the capital Freetown,” said Sierra Leone football writer Mohamed Fajah Barrie. The Premier League is huge here and everyone has been talking about it, and they all use just one word – and that is delighted. Everyone is delighted with Kei Kamara’s success on Saturday and with what he has already achieved in England.
“When he scored, everyone was talking on Facebook about it. Everybody was happy, especially with him becoming the first Sierra Leonean player to score in the English Premier League.
“We know what it means. We know it is one of the biggest leagues in the world and in Sierra Leone, as with most countries in Africa, the Premier League is the most followed and most watched league.
“So for Kei Kamara to be playing in that league and doing well, scoring a goal, everyone is delighted. The news is big everywhere in Sierra Leone.”
The Canaries are headed for Old Trafford this weekend, which means those preparing for a cinema trip to take in the game will have to think carefully about their allegiances.
“People mostly watch matches involving the big four, big five. Manchester United, Arsenal, Chelsea and now Manchester City and Liverpool. And although Kei Kamara is playing for a smaller team, it is true that people have started to watch Norwich matches.
“Now on Saturday, all the cinemas in town will be full of people. Everyone will be supporting Manchester United because that is their team, but I think they will be hoping they win 4-3 – as long as Kei gets all three for Norwich.
“Kei is playing for Norwich City for only a short contract at the moment, but I am sure some Sierra Leoneans will support Norwich City because of him; of course that is going to happen. The English Premier League is very, very big in Sierra Leone. You only need to visit this country once to see what I am saying. So Kei playing and doing well really means a lot to the people here.”
Kamara was far from an unknown in Sierra Leone before his move to England, having been voted sierraleonefootball.com footballer of the year for 2012 thanks to his efforts in Kansas. However, the Premier League is a different beast altogether – meaning Kamara can expect a new level of appreciation back home if his current form continues.
“He was playing well for Kansas City and he was the key African player in the MLS last year, with most goals and most assists,” added Barrie. “So people know who he is because he is an international player and of course now he is playing in the English Premier League. But there is a difference between knowing someone and being popular. You can know people but not like them, and I am sure his popularity will improve now he is doing so well in England.”
Unbeaten Sierra Leone return to action over the next international break, when they face a tough trip to Tunisia for their latest World Cup qualifier scheduled for March 22.
“He already has a fan club in Sierra Leone, which he has had for one or two years now,” added Barrie. “But when he comes over again to Africa to play as someone who is playing in the English Premier League, he will be considered as one of the country’s best players. People will want to watch him and it will be great. He is good news for Sierra Leone. Before, we had (former Inter and Monaco striker) Mohamed Kallon who was a star and a similar kind of player, and was well known for scoring goals. Now people will know Kei Kamara and that will be good for the whole country.”