VANCOUVER, BC – Kekuta Manneh had no shortage of motivation when he entered the match early in the second half last weekend against Real Salt Lake.
With Vancouver Whitecaps FC down a goal at the half, head coach Martin Rennie inserted Manneh and striker Darren Mattocks in the 54th minute with the hopes of finding an equalizer.
It was Manneh’s first appearance in nearly four weeks.
If that wasn’t motivation enough, both of his adoptive parents were in the stands at BC Place for the first time this season.
“They thought I did well, but it could have been better,” Manneh told whitecapsfc.com. “My dad is always that kind of guy. He’ll always tell you what you did wrong and try to make you work on stuff to get better.”
Minutes after coming into the match, Manneh nearly created the equalizer with a threatening run into the RSL box, but attempts from Mattocks and Russell Teibert were both fended off by RSL defenders.
The Gambian forward had an opportunity of his own just before stoppage time, but his shot from the top of the box curled just wide.
Short doc: Manneh's journey from Gambia to Vancouver
In the end, it wasn’t the dream scenario Manneh had hoped for, but it was still a special moment for he and his parents.
It’s the first time Eric Niccum has been able to watch his adopted son play in Vancouver, while his wife LaRhonda was in the stands for Manneh’s first-ever Major League Soccer match March 2 against Toronto FC.
LaRhonda and Eric, who currently reside in Austin, Texas, arrived in Vancouver last Friday and will be in town until Monday after Vancouver’s match with Portland Timbers.
Initially, the plan was for them to stay at a hotel, but they had other ideas.
“They wanted to be around me, every single minute, every single day so that’s why they decided to stay with me,” Manneh chuckled.
“It’s pretty cool, you know, hanging out with my parents,” he said. “It’s one of the best feelings. Spending time with them is just amazing.”
Back in 2010, Manneh moved to the United States from Gambia and joined youth soccer club Texas Rush. LaRhonda was the manager of the team and her son Cameron played on it.
Initially, the Niccums were simply Manneh’s host family. Once they got to know him, however, they asked him if he’d like to stay in the United States and be adopted by their family and he didn’t think twice. Manneh’s biological mother passed away when he was 10 years old.
Although they’re now in different cities, Manneh said he still talks to his parents quite frequently.
“My mom calls me every single day,” he said. “I talk to them a lot.”
They’ll be in the stands again on Sunday when Whitecaps FC host Portland Timbers, and whether or not he’s in the lineup, Manneh is hoping the 'Caps will give them something to cheer about.