In the latest installment of Q&A, we chat with new Vancouver Whitecaps FC striker Kei Kamara. The 33-year-old Sierra Leone native, who found the back of the net with a world-class header in Vancouver’s season-opening 2-1 victory over Montreal Impact, will play his 300th Major League Soccer match on Saturday vs. Houston Dynamo.
Q: What does it mean to you to be a member of Vancouver Whitecaps FC?
A: It means a lot. It means you’re playing for a club that wants you to be a part of it. And to me, that’s what it’s all about.
Q: What was the defining moment in your soccer career?
A: I would have to say it was becoming a professional soccer player. Growing up in Africa, you always want to play. I finally moved to the U.S., played in college, and then said I want to play professionally. When you work so hard and finally get drafted, that was the moment right there.
Q: In a recent interview, you said you still have nightmares from some of the things you’ve been through. How difficult is it dealing with that?
A: Obviously growing up in Sierra Leone, I lived there the whole time during the civil war. The nightmares don’t go away. Always running away, always being chased, gunshots behind you and stuff like that. You wake up in the middle of the night knowing, OK, you’re fine. You’re just laying in your bed. Those are the nightmares. They’ve always been there. I don’t wish that on any kid. That’s the first thing you think about when you hear there’s a war in any country in the world. It really hits you.
Q: What is your most vivid memory – good or bad – from your childhood?
A: I was blessed to grow up with the family I did. We were able to stay together during the difficult times of the civil war in Sierra Leone. I think the day that we ran away from home when we were being hunted was probably the scariest, vivid memory. We were basically hiding under the bed, hearing or seeing bullets hitting the windows. Those are definitely the memories that will stay with you forever.
Q: You’re obviously very proud of where you came from. Tell us about your hometown.
A: Yes, Kenema, Sierra Leone. It’s very small, 150 thousand people, maybe less. It’s a family oriented place. Growing up there, everybody in that whole town feels like we’re all connected, just like we’re this one big family. That’s the most important thing about Kenema.
Q: You’re already doing a lot with your Heart Shaped Hands Foundation in Sierra Leone. What would you do if you were president of the country?
A: Wow. This is going to be great, because I’m going to be president one day (laughs). If I was president of Sierra Leone, the number one thing I would do is change the educational syllabus to something more international. The kids are the next generation. You say that, and it sounds cliché, but kids are the future of anything. If the educational syllabus is not up to date with what everyone else is doing around the world, then they don’t have something to look forward to. The education syllabus is the first thing I would change.
Q: I think we know the answer to this, but do you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert?
A: Yeah, I think I really keep to myself (laughs). No, I’m out there. I love meeting people, and I love feeding off the energy of people to get me going. If they don’t have that energy, then I kind of inject my energy into them.
Q: What’s your favourite TV show?
A: Umm, there are so many. Game of Thrones, Power, but I think I’ll go with Game of Thrones. That suspense just gets you going.
Q: Favourite holiday?
A: I’m a family person, so I like all the holidays. But I would have to say Christmas, because most of the time I get to go back home to Sierra Leone for Christmas.
Q: What’s on your bucket list?
A: There’s tons. Actually, I bought myself a pair of snowboarding boots and said I was going to go snowboarding in college. My teammate went, hurt his ankle, lost his scholarship and got fined, so I put my boots in the garage. One day when I go snowboarding, it will be good.
Q: When is the last time you cried?
A: That’s a good one. Not too long ago. Probably in the offseason. I have four puppies in Sierra Leone. Three days after I left, I got a call saying the youngest one passed. So, that was probably the last time I cried in about five years.
Q: Tell us a secret.
A: It wouldn’t be a secret if I told you.