A rising star

AP

Kamara became the first player from Sierra Leone to score in the EPL when he struck against Everton, so he is something of a national hero back in his homeland. By Andy Ward.

English Premier League clubs could have been forgiven for not knowing a great deal about new Norwich recruit Kei Kamara, but they will certainly be taking notice after the powerful striker’s promising start to life in England.

The on-loan front-man announced himself in the best possible way by coming off the bench to inspire a late comeback in the Canaries’ victory over Everton, netting the equaliser with a towering header before Grant Holt’s late winner.

It has been a remarkable few years for Kamara, who has risen from journeyman status in America to the EPL.

“It’s something you dream about,” said Kamara. “It can’t be written better than it’s going right now and I can’t believe it actually happened (scoring his first EPL goal). It’s a blessing to be here.

“If you’re helping a team, winning games, getting points and putting smiles on a lot of people’s faces — that’s what I enjoy doing.”

Kamara’s story is all the more endearing when you consider the journey that he has embarked on to reach the top. At the age of just 14 his family fled their native Sierra Leone after a decade of civil war in the country, escaping to Gambia and eventually moving on to the USA two years later as part of a refugee programme.

It would be the United States that Kamara would call home for the next 12 years, as he was awarded a football scholarship in California before being signed by Major League Soccer side Columbus Crew in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft.

The pacy forward didn’t pull up any trees in the early stages of his professional career and was promptly traded to San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo in the following two campaigns.

However, when Sporting Kansas City came calling in 2009 Kamara kick-started his career and he enjoyed several superb seasons at Sporting Park.

Kamara struck up an instant relationship with the fans, entertaining them with a catalogue of celebrations and dazzling them on the pitch by becoming one of only four players to score nine or more goals in three consecutive campaigns in the MLS since 2009.

His form attracted interest from Europe, and after initially failing to sufficiently impress during a trial spell at Stoke, Kamara got his chance to move to the EPL when Norwich came calling.

The Canaries negotiated a loan deal to borrow the Sierra Leone star until May and have an option to purchase the player on a full-time basis in the summer.

So saddened were Sporting Kansas City fans at Kamara’s departure that the club’s CEO Robb Heineman felt the need to write an open letter to supporters explaining the decision to let him go.

Kamara became the first player from Sierra Leone to score in the EPL when he struck against Everton, so he is something of a national hero back in his homeland.

Cinemas across the land are now packed to watch Norwich play every week and all eyes are on the man from Kenema.

“I represent my country wherever I go, but being here now — it’s the talk of the town,” he said. “They say all the cinemas were full, I don’t even know what it would have been like out there. There’s going to be a bunch of yellow shirts out there with my name on it.”

The challenge now for Kamara is to carry on making an impression, as Norwich look to keep at arm’s length from the relegation battle unfolding below them.

FACTFILE THE PLAYER: Kei Kamara POSITION: Striker CLUB: Norwich DOB: 01/09/1984 INTERNATIONAL CAPS: 14 INTERNATIONAL GOALS: 2

MOMENT TO REMEMBER: Scoring the equalising goal in Norwich’s 2-1 victory over Everton in the EPL on only his second appearance for the club.

MOMENT TO FORGET: Slipping at the vital moment with the goal at his mercy in Sporting Kansas City’s match against LA Galaxy in 2010.

FOOTBALLER’S DRIVE: He drives a Honda Accord.

© PA Sport, 2013, All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, re-written, re-distributed or commercially exploited. Sportstar is not responsible for any inaccuracy in the material.