By: Dave LaMattina
Over the weekend, it was announced that Kei Kamara would be returning to Sporting KC of Major League Soccer after his loan to Norwich City of the Barclays Premier League expired. With weeks of speculation finally over, I had a chance to catch my breath and evaluate my obsession with the story.
The 10 days prior to the announcement started exactly the same: roused from sleep by the cries of my 9-month-old son, I stumbled into his room where I’d be greeted by a smile, and, if I was lucky, a diaper that was only damp. I’d lift him out of his crib and we’d shuffle past the mirror, pausing to wave to the baby, then into the living room where, the kid still in my arms, I’d pick up my phone and scour Twitter for any indication of the Premier League future of Kei Kamara. The search was repeated throughout the day while neurotic thought patterns I haven’t had since I was an active member of the high school dating circuit populated my head:
– Why did he change his Twitter picture?
– Why hasn’t he Tweeted in four hours?
– Why hasn’t Norwich made a decision?
– What does it all mean?
I’m obsessed with Kei’s future. Yes, we have a stake in it. With each development in his story, another layer is added to our documentary about him. But like those in Norwich, Kansas City and everywhere else the captain of the Sierra Leone national team has played, I am smitten by Kei’s story.
I desperately wanted Kei to stay in the Premier League. Don’t get me wrong: I love Sporting Kansas City. The organization, the fans and the ownership are all top notch. They’ve supported our efforts to help Kei build a school in Sierra Leone from the beginning and are purely responsible for the resurgence of my interest in Major League Soccer. I even subscribed to MatchDay Live so I could watch all their home games (the only other time I bought a sports package to watch out-of-market games was to watch my beloved New York Rangers while living in Los Angeles). I was blown away by the support the fans and club gave Kei when he went across the Atlantic to start his loan. I want to see Kei raise the MLS Cup, dance with CJ Sapong again and have his powder blue jersey retired. Just not yet.
For me, Kei embodies the spirit of Sierra Leone. It’s not just about a people who are indefatigable or hopeful—sure, they are both—but Kei, like the people we’ve met throughout the country, exudes a radiant joy that isn’t tied to career or success. It’s a joy found in everyday life.
And so it should come as no surprise that when we visited Kei in Norwich and we asked him how he wanted this all to end, he didn’t talk about extending his stay in the Premier League or a glorious return to the MLS. Those things didn’t even enter the conversation. Instead, Kei talked about his dream of building a school in Sierra Leone so he could give kids the opportunities he never had.
In the days since the announcement, my morning routine hasn’t changed much: I still stumble, the baby still smiles, and I still hope for a clean-ish diaper. What I have come to realize is that every time Kei stepped on the pitch for Norwich, we witnessed a truly good man living out his dream. That just doesn’t happen every day. It wasn’t just inspiring, it was intoxicating. And while I wasn’t ready for it to end, I am thankful for the ride.
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Dave LaMattina is the co-founder of Copper Pot Pictures, a New York-based media company producing a documentary about Kei Kamara. Editors’ Note: An earlier version of this article, completed before the announcement was made, appeared on Copper Pot’s blog at www.copperpotpictures.com.