IMAGE: Alhaji feature

Alhaji Kamara’s journey to D.C. United has been long and full of turns.  The Sierra Leone native grew up in Lungi, not far from the West African country’s only international airport. After moving to Freetown to play for F.C. Kallon, one of the most storied clubs in the nation, the now-22-year-old’s career took off, making the jump to Europe and playing for several Swedish teams starting in 2012.  He played for Djurgårdens IF,  IK Frej and IFK Värnamo before signing with IFK Norrköping in 2014.  

The six-foot forward did not settle in immediately at the first-division side, even getting loaned out to Johor Darul Takzim in Malaysia, but “the coach saw potential in me and gave me a chance,” Kamara said.  

After scoring 16 goals in his two years at Norrköping and helping the team win the Swedish first division, life was good for Kamara.  “Everything was going perfect in my life,” he said.  “I hadn’t seen my family in two years, and then I was able to go home a champion and celebrate with them.”

But after such a high point came a devastatingly low one.  Upon his return to Sweden, Kamara and his teammates were required to undergo regulatory heart screenings, during which he was told he had an abnormal congenital problem and not able to play again.  

“I was shocked,” Kamara said. “I remember saying, ‘Why now?’ But I was positive and told myself that I was too young and too healthy to not play football. I had to find options.”  

Those options included doctors in the U.S., where Kamara had decided to turn to on his own before his agent informed him that an American team was ready to do a full investigation into his health.  After talking to two of the top cardiologists in the country, Allen Taylor (United’s cardiologist and chief of cardiology at Washington’s MedStar Heart and Vascular Institute) and Matthew Martinez (cardiology consultant for MLS), Kamara has been cleared to resume training and play soccer again.  

The second chance to play has Kamara excited, who is “putting this behind me and concentrating on the field.”

“I’m really glad to be here and am looking forward to playing my first game for D.C. United and be a part of this family.