Who is Kei Kamara?

Posted March 22nd, 2016 at 2:07 pm (UTC-4)
1 comment

Kei Kamara of Sierra Leone Photo: Jay LaPrete/AP

Kei Kamara of Sierra Leone
Photo: Jay LaPrete/AP

Who is Kei Kamara? That seems easy enough. He is a Major League Soccer (MLS) player from Sierra Leone.  That’s not wrong, but there’s more. Though soccer is a big part of his life, there’s more to Kamara than just what you see on the field. He is a fierce competitor, a loving father, a world-class humanitarian, and an entertainer.

Last season, Kei Kamara tied for most goals in MLS with 22 in the regular season and was top goalscorer in the playoffs with four. He was named Columbus Crew SC’s most valuable player and to the MLS best 11 team.

You can never accuse him of not giving his all. Once he steps on that field, he is in attack mode.  Columbus made it all the way to the MLS Cup final last season, but lost 2-1 to the Portland Timbers. Kamara scored the Crew’s only goal. “I enjoy the game, I want to play, I want to score goals, but right now my focus is just winning a cup,” said Kei, talking about his goals for this season. The Cup is the main goal for Kamara.

Kei Kamara in action in a MLS match. Photo: Bill Kostroun/AP

Kei Kamara in action in a MLS match. Photo: Bill Kostroun/AP

2015 was an eventful year for him off the field as well. Kei had his first child last year with wife Kristin Kamara.  “They say when you have a girl you treat her like a princess and that’s what I’m doing. She gets the best side of me, the soft side of me,” Kamara said.

Kei believes his daughter is helping him get more rest this season, since he goes home more often to lay low with his family. In Africa, there is a strong emphasis on family, and Kamara considers the start of his own family as his greatest achievement thus far.

Kei Kamara battles for the ball during the 2015 MLS Cup final. Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Kei Kamara battles for the ball during the 2015 MLS Cup final. Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

The 2015 MLS Works Humanitarian of the Year award was given to Kei.  You don’t win this award by doing the bare minimum.  You win it by servicing the community and showing excellence on the field.  This is exactly what Kamara did last season.

“It’s an honor to be recognized as a humanitarian. To me it’s not a job, I’m just being myself. Helping out here in America and helping out in Sierra Leone,” Kei said talking about the award’s meaning to him.  He has been working with the Schools for Salone initiative since 2005.  This program has been working to rebuild schools in war-torn areas of Sierra Leone. To date, 16 schools have been built and two libraries.

Let’s shift the subject back to the field. One could argue that Kamara has some of the best goal celebrations in MLS. He uses props, dances, and gets his teammates involved.  With the amount of scoring he did last season there was plenty to celebrate.

“It’s just part of my personality. I love to dance, I love to have fun, and I love to connect with my teammates,” Kamara said when discussing his celebrations.

Kei Kamara has one of the most vibrant personalities in the league.  He is a star and he is not afraid to shine.  Although Columbus Crew SC is off to a slow start, with two losses and a draw, there is more than enough time to recover.

It’s far too early to tell if the Sierra Leonean veteran will eclipse his accomplishments from last season, but he is at a good pace with one goal after three games played.  The focus is there for him and he is more than up to the challenge.  Columbus will be in action again April 2nd, looking to get their first win against FC Dallas.

This blog post was written by VOA Intern Rick Narcisse. Listen to Rick’s interview with Kei Kamara:

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Malian Player Diallo and March Madness

Posted March 16th, 2016 at 12:11 pm (UTC-4)
Leave a comment

March Madness Logo 2The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has once again tipped off its 68-team Men’s Division I Basketball Tournament to determine the 2016 national champion.

Most of the competition is played in March and due to its unpredictable nature, it’s nicknamed “March Madness.”

The single-elimination tournament, staged at venues across the country, is one of the most popular sporting events in the United States. It will culminate April fourth when the national title game is played in Houston, Texas.

Playing in what many would argue is the toughest league in the country, the Kansas University “Jayhawks” managed to win the regular season and conference titles in the Big 12.  With a record of 30 wins and four losses, they earned a No. 1 seed for the NCAA tournament.

Kansas will bid for a fourth national title with an experienced and proven team. The Jayhawks feature NBA draft candidates like Wayne Selden Jr., and Perry Ellis, and a few players who will need more time to develop, like Cheick Diallo.

Cheick Diallo goes up for a dunk against Loyola (Md.). Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP

Cheick Diallo goes up for a dunk against Loyola (Md.). Photo: Charlie Riedel/AP

From Mali, to New York, to Kansas, former five-star recruit Diallo is preparing for his first NCAA tournament. The 19-year-old freshman did not have the season KU fans were expecting, but with time and development, they look forward to more production from the African forward.

Diallo did not start playing basketball until 2010 due to his love for soccer.  He viewed basketball as a girls sport.  Now standing 6-feet-9 (2.06 m), Cheick simply outgrew the sport of soccer.

In high school, Diallo played at Our Savior New American School in Long Island, New York. He attracted attention from top colleges and universities for his rebounding, shot-blocking and versatility, and earned MVP honors at some prestigious high school all-star games. His first season at Kansas, though, was delayed due to an NCAA investigation of his education and background.

When he was finally declared eligible, he would go on to have his best offensive game against Loyola University (Md.). He scored 13 points, grabbed six rebounds, and blocked three shots.

 

 

Since the Loyola game, Cheick Diallo has reached double digit points only once.  He did have a near double-double against Texas Christian University, scoring nine points and grabbing nine rebounds.

The sky certainly is the limit for Cheick Diallo. He has the physical tools and plays under Bill Self, who is considered one of college basketball’s best coaches. The Jayhawks will play their opening game in the championship tournament Thursday (March 17th) against Austin Peay State University.

Print your brackets, pick your teams, and let’s get ready for the madness that is March.

This blog post was written by VOA Intern Rick Narcisse.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Ghana’s Nyarko Ready For New Season With D.C. United

Posted March 4th, 2016 at 3:22 pm (UTC-4)
1 comment

Patrick Nyarko and VOA's Rick Narcisse

Patrick Nyarko and VOA’s Rick Narcisse

With the Major League Soccer season right around the corner, there will be many players lacing up for a new team.

That list of players includes D.C. United’s newly acquired midfielder, Patrick Nyarko. I had the honor of sitting down with him to talk about his future in the nation’s capital.

The 30-year-old Nyarko was born in Kumasi, Ghana, where he lived up until his college years.

He moved to the United States to attend Virginia Tech, where he studied psychology and dominated on the field.

Patrick finished his college career third all-time in goals (31) and assists (24) and fourth in total points (86) at Virginia Tech. He left the school after three years and turned pro with the Chicago Fire, where he played for the last eight seasons.

Patrick Nyarko (L) in action for Virginia Tech. Photo: Sara D. Davis/AP

Patrick Nyarko (L) in action for Virginia Tech. Photo: Sara D. Davis/AP

Funny enough, Patrick did not grow up thinking he would make a career out of the sport.  “Growing up I was a really good student…I was going to go to college in Ghana to do some sort of engineering,” Nyarko says, while reflecting on his journey thus far.

Good thing former Virginia Tech head coach Oliver Weiss went on that recruiting trip to Ghana. Weiss describes Nyarko as the most incredible player he’s ever coached.

The Chicago Fire traded Nyarko to D.C. United in exchange for a second-round pick in the 2016 MLS Super Draft.

“After a while in one place you tend to go through the motions,” says Nyarko on the big move. “I needed a change to refocus myself and ended up in D.C. this year.”

Patrick Nyarko leaps for the ball while playing for the Chicago Fire. Photo: Mike Cassese/Reuters

Patrick Nyarko leaps for the ball while playing for the Chicago Fire. Photo: Mike Cassese/Reuters

Washington D.C. isn’t unfamiliar territory to Patrick since he went to school five hours away.  He says he spent some of his college breaks in nearby Alexandria, Virginia, which is only a 30-minute drive from the capital.

Looking forward to this year, the Ghanaian veteran aims to win the MLS Cup. Nyarko missed much of the 2015 season because of a knee injury. He says he feels stronger and through his rehab he has put himself in a good position to have a better season this year.  “There are a lot of smart and experienced guys on the team and I’m here to help,” said Nyarko.

You can bet one of the big matches on his radar this year will be against the Fire. “It will be good going back to Chicago…they treated me really well and I had a good relationship with them.  It was hard to leave but I’m excited,” Nyarko said with a huge smile on his face.

Patrick has enjoyed his time in the league playing against stars he looked up to growing up.  “For my three favorite soccer players of all time, I have Thierry Henry, Ryan Giggs and Steven Gerrard.  I’ve had the opportunity to play against two of them and might have an opportunity to play against the third one this Sunday,” he said.  Steven Gerard better bring his A-game.

D.C. United midfielder Patrick Nyarko (R) chases the ball in a recent match. Photo: Nick Wass/AP

D.C. United midfielder Patrick Nyarko (R) chases the ball in a recent match. Photo: Nick Wass/AP

Talking to Patrick Nyarko made me see him for who he truly is, which is a humble athlete with championship aspirations.  He prides himself on his ability to adjust to different situations and he’s ready to do that here with D.C. United.

Patrick will take the field this Sunday, March 6th, against the host LA Galaxy in southern California.

This blog post was written by VOA Intern Rick Narcisse.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Mudiay Makes Mark In The NBA

Posted February 18th, 2016 at 10:09 pm (UTC-4)
Leave a comment

Emmanuel Mudiay dribbles the ball during the NBA's Rising Stars Challenge in Toronto, Canada. Photo: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Emmanuel Mudiay dribbles the ball during the NBA’s Rising Stars Challenge in Toronto, Canada. Photo: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Representing the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Denver Nuggets rookie point guard Emmanuel Mudiay exploded for 30 points and 10 assists in a loss to the United States team at the recent National Basketball Association All-Star Weekend Rising Stars challenge in Toronto, Canada.

For those who don’t know, the Rising Stars challenge is a game that showcases the NBA’s future all-stars. The game has left behind the old method of splitting up the teams. Instead of rookies vs. second-year players, the teams are split up by geography. Team World features young international talent, while Team USA features Americans.

The 19-year-old Mudiay truly embodies Team World as he’s a bit of a world traveler. Born in the DR

Emmanuel Mudiay drives to the basket in a game against the Chicago Bulls. Photo: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Emmanuel Mudiay drives to the basket in a game against the Chicago Bulls. Photo: Caylor Arnold-USA TODAY Sports

Congo, Emmanuel was raised in the United States and played one year of professional basketball in China for the Guangdong Southern Tigers. Now, he’s back in the USA playing basketball at the highest level, the NBA.

Mudiay’s 30 points tied with American Zach Lavine of the Minnesota Timberwolves and Latvian big man Kristaps Porziņģis of the New York Knicks for the game high. The final score was 157-154 in favor of Team USA. Lavine earned the game MVP title but it was a close battle for it.

Emmanuel Mudiay shoots the ball against Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat. Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Emmanuel Mudiay shoots the ball against Washington Wizards center Marcin Gortat. Photo: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Among the rookie class, the 6’5″ (1.96 meters) Mudiay ranks first in assists per game with 5.9 and fifth in points per game with 11.4. He missed some time due to an ankle injury in December, but has rebounded by averaging 12.7 points in January and now 7 assists per game in February.

Emmanuel is one of the NBA’s brightest young stars and he was able to show that in the Rising Stars challenge. He will take the floor again on Friday, February 19th, when the Nuggets play the Sacramento Kings in California.

This blog post was written by VOA Intern Rick Narcisse.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

65th NBA All-Star Game

Posted February 10th, 2016 at 3:03 pm (UTC-4)
1 comment

NBA All Star Game Logo 2016Sunday’s 65th National Basketball Association All-Star Game in Toronto will mark the first time the popular exhibition contest has been held outside the United States, another sign that the league is looking to expand its brand in international markets.

The game will be played at Air Canada Centre, the home arena of the NBA’s Toronto Raptors club. Last month, the Raptors and the Orlando Magic traveled overseas to London and entertained basketball fans in the British capital in a regular season game.

Point guard Kyle Lowry scored 24 points to help lead the Raptors to a 106-103 overtime victory over the Magic in London. The NBA has also staged regular season games in recent years in Mexico and Japan.

All-Star guard Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors. Photo: Carlos Osorio / AP

All-Star guard Kyle Lowry of the Toronto Raptors. Photo: Carlos Osorio / AP

Lowry and Raptors teammate DeMar DeRozan were both named to the All-Star Game and they should hear more than a few cheers from the crowd in Toronto.

The reigning NBA champion Golden State Warriors are the only club with three players selected for the All-Star Game: guard Klay Thompson, forward Draymond Green and sharpshooter Stephen Curry, the league’s current MVP and leading scorer.

Stephen Curry, John Wall

Stephen Curry shoots over Washington Wizards guard John Wall. Both players will compete in the 65th NBA All-Star Game in Toronto. Photo: Alex Brandon / AP

While Curry should get a lot of attention in his third all-star appearance, so will Los Angeles Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant, who announced this season, his 20th in the league, will be his last.

The 37-year-old Bryant is making his 18th All-Star Game appearance. Only retired great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the NBA’s all-time leading scorer, has more all-star selections with 19.

In recent years, more international players have participated in the All-Star Game. During the 2015 contest in New York City, veteran German big man Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks and Spain’s Gasol brothers – Pau Gasol of the Chicago Bulls and Marc Gasol of the Memphis Grizzlies – all participated.

For Sunday’s game, though, only Pau Gasol was selected. International players will be well-represented in the Rising Stars Challenge, an exhibition game for first and second-year players held on Friday night before the main All-Star Game.

Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay. Photo: David Zalubowski / AP

Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay. Photo: David Zalubowski / AP

The Rising Stars challenge features Team World against Team USA. All of Team World’s players were born outside the United States, and includes rookies Emmanuel Mudiay of the Denver Nuggets and Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks.

The 19-year-old Mudiay is from the Democratic Republic of Congo, while the 20-year-old Porzingis, a top candidate for the Rookie of the Year award, is from Latvia.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Ghana’s Commey Fighter to Watch in 2016

Posted January 6th, 2016 at 4:00 pm (UTC-4)
1 comment

Richard Commey

Richard Commey

Ghana has a proud pedigree of producing world champion fighters. Over the past 40 years, just to name a few, David “D.K. Poison” Kotey, Azumah “The Professor” Nelson and Ike “Bazooka” Quartey have earned glory for Ghana and brought home world title belts.

Richard Commey says he also wants to bring home a world championship belt and add his name to the list of great Ghanaian boxers.

The undefeated (23-0, 21 KOs), 28-year-old Commey has put himself in position to win the International Boxing Federation (IBF) world lightweight crown after winning all four of his fights in 2015, including a seventh round TKO of South Africa’s Thompson Mokwana.

Commey is a power puncher, and his career results reflect his hard-hitting style. Only two of his 23 fights have gone the distance, and Commey won both by unanimous decision.

The IBF says the Ghanaian will fight in a final elimination bout for its world title in 2016. An opponent and date is expected to be named in the next few weeks.

Ghanaian fighter Richard Commey throws another punch.

Ghanaian fighter Richard Commey throws another punch. Photo: Jim Fenwick

“’Whoever I face, I’m sure it will be a tough test as it will be against a world class opponent,” says Commey, “but I’m undefeated and I have no fear of any fighter.”

Commey’s promoter, Nisse Sauerland, is confident his fighter can win another world title for Ghana. “He has the skill set and punching power to beat anyone at 135 lbs.,” says Sauerland, “and I believe it’s only a matter of time before Ghana has a new world champion.”

If Commey wins the elimination bout, it’s likely he would then meet another unbeaten fighter, IBF Lightweight champion Rances “Kid Blast” Barthelemy of Cuba.

 

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Great Year For Kipchoge and Kenyan Marathon Runners

Posted November 4th, 2015 at 3:30 pm (UTC-4)
4 comments

Kenyan athletes Simon Biwott and Mary Keitany celebrate their titles at the New York City Marathon November 1. Photo: Mike Segar/Reuters

Kenyan athletes Simon Biwott and Mary Keitany celebrate their titles at the New York City Marathon November 1. Photo: Mike Segar/Reuters

2015 is proving to be another great year for Kenyan athletes at the marathon distance. The Kenyans swept the men’s and women’s titles at three major marathons – Berlin, Chicago and New York.

Leading the Kenyan charge was Eliud Kipchoge, who clocked 2:04:42 to win the London Marathon April 26th, and then ran 2:04:00 to win the Berlin Marathon five months later.

Kipchoge will celebrate his 31st birthday on November 5th. He won silver and bronze medals for Kenya at 5000m at the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the 2004 Athens Olympics.

After winning Berlin, Kipchoge told “The Energetic” Andy Edwards he hopes to win another Olympic medal in 2016 in the marathon.

Based on his victories in Berlin and London, Eliud Kipchoge is my pick for best marathon runner of 2015.

Eliud Kipchoge wins the 2015 London Marathon. Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

Eliud Kipchoge wins the 2015 London Marathon. Photo: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP

But based on Olympic history, it’s far from certain Kipchoge will medal in Rio next year.

Kenya’s dominance of the marathon hasn’t carried over to Olympic competition, which tends to be more about tactics and less about speed.

The late Sammy Wanjiru, who died tragically in a fall off a balcony at his home in 2011, is the only Kenyan to win the Olympic gold in the marathon. Wanjiru won the marathon at the 2008 Beijing Games in an Olympic record time of 2:06:32.

History also tells us, though, that Eliud Kipchoge has to be considered one of the favorites for the gold medal when the 2016 Olympic men’s marathon is staged in Rio de Janeiro.

In his six career marathons, Kipchoge has won five and placed second in the other.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Didier Drogba Making An Impact In MLS

Posted September 29th, 2015 at 3:31 pm (UTC-4)
3 comments

Didier Drogba celebrates one of his two goals against D.C. United on September 26, 2015. Photo: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Didier Drogba celebrates one of his two goals against D.C. United on September 26, 2015. Photo: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

In the twilight of a great football career, 37-year-old Didier Drogba is now delighting fans and making a big impact in his inaugural Major League Soccer (MLS) season.

The former Ivory Coast captain signed with the Montreal Impact on July 27, 2015. He didn’t make his first start for Montreal until September 5, 2015, and talk about sudden impact.

Drogba became the first player in MLS history to score a hat-trick in their first league start.

The still powerful striker immediately showed his versatility as he recorded “a perfect hat-trick,” scoring one goal with his left foot, one with his right foot and one with his head in Montreal’s 4-3 victory over the visiting Chicago Fire.

In his first six matches for Montreal, Didier Drogba has scored seven goals and proven to be “an absolute revelation,” words used by MLSsoccer.com after the African star was named MLS Player of the Week on September 29, 2015.

Drogba, though, has revealed his stellar skills all over the world since signing his first professional contract with the French club Le Mans in 1999.

Didier Drogba in action against British star Steven Gerrard of the Los Angeles Galaxy, another international player in his first MLS season. Photo: Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP

Didier Drogba in action against British star Steven Gerrard of the Los Angeles Galaxy, another international player in his first MLS season. Photo: Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP

He retired from international football in 2014 as Ivory Coast’s all-time leading scorer with 65 goals.

The rugged Drogba earned his most fame at Chelsea, scoring 164 goals in all competitions for the London-based club. After one-year stints for clubs in China and Turkey, Drogba returned to Chelsea last season and was rewarded with his fourth English Premier League (EPL) title.

Chelsea fans cheered for Drogba as he was carried off the field after his final match for “The Blues,” the club’s nickname that is reflected in the home uniform of royal blue shirts and shorts.

Drogba is wearing blue again for Montreal and earning more cheers as he makes his maiden season in MLS a memorable one.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

One On One With Luol Deng

Posted September 1st, 2015 at 2:41 pm (UTC-4)
5 comments

Luol Deng and Sonny in the Voice of America's Studio 53.

Luol Deng and Sonny in the Voice of America’s Studio 53.

Writing about the Top 100 National Basketball Association players of 2016, Sports Illustrated magazine’s Rob Mahoney says of Luol Deng, “Coaches sing his praises. Teammates past and present adore him. Such positive reflection is far from coincidence.”

As I reflect on Deng’s first visit to our Voice of America headquarters, it’s hard not to sing a few more verses in praise of the Miami Heat forward.

Miami's Luol Deng puts up a shot during a game against the Chicago Bulls, his former club. Photo: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

Miami’s Luol Deng puts up a shot during a game against the Chicago Bulls, his former club. Photo: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

I last talked with the 30-year-old Deng a few years ago when he played for the Chicago Bulls. I met him in the lobby of Chicago’s team hotel before a regular season game against the Washington Wizards.

What impressed me from that meeting was Deng’s humility and his love for Africa. And those impressions carried over during his visit to the VOA.

Deng wore a South Sudan Unite T-shirt to visibly promote unity in his homeland, Africa’s newest country and one that’s been striving to achieve lasting peace. In an interview on the VOA’s Africa 54 TV program, Deng talked about his humanitarian work in South Sudan; playing in the NBA’s first game in Africa; and he looked forward to the upcoming NBA season.

As we heard in my interview, Luol Deng says he thinks he “still has a lot of years ahead of him” in the NBA and there’s still “a lot he wants to accomplish” before he leaves the league.

Among his accomplishments and career highlights: Deng is a two-time NBA All-Star (2012-2013) and he won the NBA’s Sportsmanship Award in 2007 and the J. Walter Kennedy Citizenship Award in 2014.

The NBA’s Citizenship Award is given to those who show outstanding service and dedication to the community. Dikembe Mutombo, who Luol Deng has described as a role model for his own humanitarian efforts, is the only player to win the award twice. The 49-year-old Mutombo retired from the NBA in 2009 and he’ll be officially enshrined in the Basketball Hall of Fame on September 11th.

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

Sierra Leone’s Kamara Builds Hope and All-Star Resume

Posted July 28th, 2015 at 3:26 pm (UTC-4)
2 comments

One of the defining characteristics of the 2015 Major League Soccer season has been the massive influx of talent from across the Atlantic.

New York City FC, a new franchise playing its first season in the league, has led the charge. Before the season, NYC signed former Barcelona and Spanish national team striker David Villa to head their attack and solidified their midfield by bringing in US national team member Mix Diskerud. As the season progressed, Diskerud was joined in the midfield by former Chelsea and England captain Frank Lampard, as well as Andrea Pirlo, who led Italian club Juventus to the UEFA Champions League final in June.

Imports to other MLS teams this season include another former England captain in Steven Gerrard (LA Galaxy), Brazilian legend Kaká (Orlando City SC) and aging Ivorian striker Didier Drogba (Montreal Impact).

Kei Kamara (L) dribbles in a match against the Chicago Fire. Photo: AP

Kei Kamara (L) dribbles in a match against the Chicago Fire. Photo: AP

With all of these big names grabbing the headlines, the Columbus Crew’s signing of Sierra Leonean forward Kei Kamara was not a big story, but as the season has progressed, and Kamara has proceeded to score goal after goal, people have started to take notice.

Kamara, who began his career with Columbus in 2006, returned to MLS this season after a one year stint with English club Middlesbrough and immediately got off to a hot start, scoring in the Crew’s home opener on March 14 and getting nominated for the Player of the Month award in April.

Kei Kamara controls the ball in game against the Chicago Fire. Photo: AP

Kei Kamara (R) controls the ball in game against the Chicago Fire. Photo: AP

His scoring barrage has continued into the summer as Columbus has risen to second place in the tough Eastern Conference, putting the playoffs well within their sights. Kamara now leads the league with 15 goals in just 21 appearances and will deservedly be playing in his first ever MLS All-Star game in Denver, Colorado. With this new position of prominence, Kamara is working to bring attention to a cause that literally strikes very close to home.

Kamara’s hometown of Kenema had Sierra Leone’s first reported case in the 2014 Ebola epidemic that killed almost 4000 people in the country and caused untold amounts of damage to the west African nation’s economy.

In December last year, Kamara was featured in a video alongside other African stars Yaya Toure and Fabrice Muamba as part of a joint effort by UNICEF and the US Centers for Disease Control to raise funds for aid workers in west Africa.

Kamara has also joined with fellow Sierra Leonean MLSer Michael Lahoud and the Schools for Salone program to help with the rebuilding effort in his home country.

In early June, construction workers in Sierra Leone’s capital, Freetown, broke ground for The Kei Kamara, Michael Lahoud Education for All Primary School, which is expected to be operational by October and should provide education for more than 225 children at a time.

The MLS season gets back underway after the All-Star Game against Tottenham Hotspur on July 29th.

If Kamara can keep scoring at this torrid pace, he has a chance to join Mamadou Diallo, of Senegal, as the only Africans to win the MLS Golden Boot and could lead Columbus to their first major trophy since 2008.

Kei Kamara (L) in action against the Montreal Impact. Photo: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Kei Kamara (L) in action against the Montreal Impact. Photo: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

But winning the MLS Cup will not be the only thing on Kamara’s mind as the season progresses. Sierra Leone still requires a lot of help to recover from the effects of the Ebola epidemic, and the recovery effort will not fix things overnight.

But the work of people like Kamara is starting to make a difference. As Kei’s countryman Michael Lahoud put it, “we’re not only rebuilding education, we’re rebuilding hope.”

 

 

(This blog post was written by VOA Intern Jonah Haskell)

 

Sonny Young
Since 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

About

Sonny Side of Sports is an energetic and action-packed look at both world and African sports, broadcast on radio, TV and the Internet. Since the show’s creation in 1999, host Sonny Young has delighted listeners and viewers with a lively presentation that combines humor, props, sound effects and correspondent reports from Africa and all over the globe.

The Sonny Side of Sports is broadcast Monday through Friday at 1630 and 1830 UTC/GMT. And on Fridays at 1730 UTC/GMT, Sonny has an expanded 30-minute sports show.

Brighten your day by tuning in the Sonny Side of Sports!

» Listen to the latest show

Facebook

Latest Videos

Contact

E-mail
sonny@voanews.com

Telephone
+1.202.205.9942
When you hear the VOA identification press 60

Postal Mail
Voice of America
Room 1613
330 Independence Avenue, SW
Washington, DC 20237
USA

Archives