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Feb 11, 2013

Sierra Leone fans hail Kei Kamara debut

Norwich striker Kei Kamara said his Premier League debut over the weekend generated a lot of interest in his home country of Sierra Leone, according to reports.

The 28-year-old, who is on loan from Sporting Kansas City in the MLS, came off the bench in a draw against Fulham.

"They say all the cinemas were full. I don't even know what it would have been like out there," the forward told the BBC. "There's going to be a bunch of yellow shirts out there with my name on it."

Kamara has come a long way since fleeing the battle fields of Sierra Leone's civil war and migrating to the United States as a refugee.

He came through the NCAA system and earned a draft to MLS side Columbus Crew in 2006, before moving on to San Jose, Houston and then Kansas. Kamara has 14 international caps.

His Norwich signing was confirmed before January's transfer deadline, but his international clearance did not come through until last week.

"After the move became official, for Norwich's last game against QPR everybody was in the cinemas thinking I was playing," he told the BBC after playing the last five minutes against the Cottagers.

"It's a good thing my phone doesn't work right now because if it did I would be having so many phone calls.

"I represent my country wherever I go but being here now -- it's the talk of the town. "If I do well people might recognize where I'm from, maybe they will Google Sierra Leone a little bit more.

"When I go to the national team, everybody always asks, 'when are you going to England?' because it's basically the only game that's screened all around the world."

Kamara, who had an unsuccessful trial at Stoke in December, admits his path to the English top flight has been far from straightforward, but is an opportunity he will aim to seize.

"I left Sierra Leone after the civil war ended, when I was 14. I lived in Gambia for two years and at 16 I moved to the USA through a refugee programme, so I could go to school," he said.

"I figured out to get scholarships at college I would have to play soccer, so I did that for two years. Then I got drafted to the MLS and have been in the league for seven years and now I am here."

Kamara is already a cult figure among Norwich fans, having made a big impression with his positive interviews and through social media.

"I am just honoured to be here. It gave me goosebumps just warming up on the side and hearing my name being called. I loved it and I am looking forward to playing more games here," he said.

Norwich manager Chris Hughton said Kamara needs more match fitness, having only trained with his new teammates for a few days after his midweek arrival from the United States.

"I don't think it is far off. By the next game I should definitely be in shape," said Kamara, who has headed off with the rest of the Norwich squad for some warm-weather training in Abu Dhabi as they have no match for a fortnight.

"It is about working hard from now and making it a regular thing," he said. "I am a man who can score some goals, but it is also about work-rate -- when you come into a team like this and see people working so hard, if you can work as hard as them then the goals come easily."

Norwich has the option to buy Kamara should his short-term move from Sporting Kansas City prove a success.

The striker said: "I belong to Kansas City, but I am not here to mess around and just hang about.

"I am coming here to make a statement about myself and show I can play amongst people I have watched on television."

Information from Press Association was used in this report.

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