KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Even though the circumstances are a little bizarre and the timing decidedly short, Kei Kamara will be a part of the Sierra Leone squad for one of the biggest matches in the nation’s history.
Kamara departed Kansas City on Wednesday afternoon immediately following training to meet up with his international teammates in Nelspruit, South Africa, in time for a crucial African Cup of Nations qualifier against Bafana Bafana on Saturday.
The towering SKC winger called for focus ahead of the must win game.
“It’s a big game for us, a very big game for the nation,” Kamara said in a statement to team officials before departing. “All the players are making a lot of sacrifices to be there and fully commit even though we are going in with a couple players down. We just have to stay focused.”
Currently third in Group G on eight points through five matches, the Leone Stars are one point behind Niger and even with South Africa with one qualifying game remaining. Kamara and his teammates must win their final group game and hope Egypt defeat Niger, or results in the other groups go their way, in order to qualify for next year’s tournament in Gabon and Equatorial Guinea.
Until a few days ago, it didn’t appear Kamara would take part in what will be the deciding contest in Sierra Leone’s bid to qualify for their first ACN tournament since 1996 and third in the nation’s history.
Reports in Sierra Leone suggested that Kamara was suspended for the South Africa match for “disciplinary reasons” following the team’s victory against Egypt on Sept. 3. He wasn’t originally included on the roster released by the Sierra Leone Football Association and expectations were that he would stay with Kansas City.
However, Kamara was contacted early this week by the SLFA in a bid to bring him in for the qualifier after manager Lars-Olof Mattsson voiced his displeasure at being without the forward, according to sierreleonefootball.com.
Even though the situation was certainly unexpected for all parties, the timing couldn’t be better from a competitive perspective for Sporting Kansas City.
The team is off this weekend before playing a friendly against Chivas de Guadalajara on Oct. 12 followed by a match with serious playoff implications against New York on Oct. 15, a match manager Peter Vermes said Kamara should be fully prepared to play in.
“He’s got a quick turnaround,” Vermes said. “The good thing is he gets back early enough that he has more than enough time to get ready for our game in New York. I was a little concerned about what his travel schedule would be. But now that he’s going to be back here Monday and the game isn’t until the following weekend, I’m not too concerned.”
Kamara has made nine appearances for Sierra Leone since his first call up in 2009 and played the full 90 minutes for the Leone Stars in their 1-0 win against Niger in June and 2-1 win against Egypt a month ago.