Kei Kamara loves Kansas City. Loves Sporting Kansas City's fans. Loves his teammates. When he makes his signature “heart-shaped hands” gesture after scoring a goal, he isn't faking it.
But Sporting's merry prankster and international philanthropist also loves the idea of taking on the likes of Manchester United, Arsenal and the rest of the English Premier League.
“It's a great opportunity for me,” Kamara told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Wednesday after Sporting announced that the popular forward would be loaned to Premier League side Norwich City through May 6.
“England's a mecca of the game. It's a mecca of soccer, and no player is going to want to turn that opportunity down to go play some games over there. I'm just excited to get this chance, and for the Sporting organization and coaching staff to let me go live this out.”
His international duties with Sierra Leone will be easier during the loan span, too, because Kamara – his home nation's Footballer of the Year for 2012 – won't have so many time zones to cross.
“It'll be a little less jet lag, yeah,” he said. “I'll be halfway there.”
Kamara, who has led Sporting in scoring in each of the last three seasons, is coming off a strong 2012 campaign. His 11 goals were a career high, and his move to the wing paid off with a career-high eight assists.
He trained with Premiership side Stoke City last month, but Norwich – who will have an option to buy out Kamara's contract when his loan is up in May – were relative latecomers in bidding for his services.
“My agent is the one who's been doing all the work, dealing with a couple of teams who had an interest in me,” said Kamara, whose deal with MLS was extended as part of the loan agreement. “I always told him not to tell me too much about what's going on until something is solid. He came to me last week, a week-and-a-half ago to tell me, so that's when I felt it was solid.”
Kamara will miss Sporting's first 10 league games, but if he returns, he'll be back in time for the last two-thirds of the season as well as US Open Cup and CONCACAF Champions League play.
“I'm going to miss my boys a lot, opening the season,” he said. “I'm really going to miss the fans. But at the same time, I'm looking at this move as something that's going to be really, really fun. I look forward to getting back, and hopefully the team's in a good position.”
Steve Brisendine covers Sporting Kansas City for MLSsoccer.com.