Aged just 20, Ernest Kamara seemed to have the football world at his feet but unfortunately, his career was cut short by an injury.
Kamara fractured his right leg in October 2003 during Sierra Leone’s joint 2006 World Cup and Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Congo in Brazzaville.
He believes that surgery in Italy could have saved his career but he was denied a visa to travel thereafter members of the Sierra Leone’s Under-17 World Cup side sought asylum in Finland earlier that year.
The injury turned out not only to be career-ending but left him with a permanent deformity.
Mohamed Kallon was the Sierra Leone captain at the time and was playing for Inter Milan and arranged for Kamara to fly Italy for that surgery.
“I went to Abidjan (after returning to Freetown from Congo) alongside a Sierra Leone FA (SLFA) official Abu Bakarr Kabba to try and secure a visa to enable me travel to Italy but I wasn’t given the visa,” Kamara explained.
“Kallon entirely took care of my trip to Abidjan but unfortunately it came a few months after several Sierra Leonean players absconded in Finland after they were eliminated from the Under-17 World Cup and that might be one of the reasons I was refused a visa.”
Kamara was left with no option but to return to Freetown where he was not offered surgery and instead the treatment he did receive left him with a deformity.
“My foot was never the same again; I can no longer walk straight. It was virtually the end of my career – I tried to force myself to play afterwards but it wasn’t easy,” he explained.
Even a move into the second tier in Sierra Leone did not work out he was forced to stop playing completely after a season at Mount Aureol Slifa.
Kamara has revealed the heartbreak he endured when he realised his professional playing career had been cut short.
“I spent sleepless nights and I even cried after I realised that I would never again play for my national team and for me it was the end of my career,” he told BBC Sport Africa.
“It came at a time when I was at my peak; I was a first-choice player for my national team and the then Leone Stars Yugoslavian coach Dusan Draskovic was arranging for me to secure a move to a club in his country.
“I don’t even want to talk about it because it breaks my heart, it pains me. The injury changed my life; I didn’t achieve my dream of playing professional football at the highest level.”
Kamara feels that he was badly let down by both the SLFA administration and the country’s government at the time.
“I got my injury while on national duty so the SLFA and government at the time should have done all their best to take me abroad for advanced medical treatment,” he said.
“I believe I wouldn’t be deformed and my career wouldn’t have ended prematurely if they had helped. I’m highly disappointed at both the SLFA and government at the time because I believe they didn’t do enough.
“They never cared for me, they never compensated me, and they instead abandoned me. I’m an angry man, a bitter man.
“I bless Kallon and other players including former Leone Stars captain Ibrahim Kargbo, who have given me encouraging words and some have even supported me financially.
“I still believe that I should be compensated financially, and I’m calling on both the SLFA and government to do so.”
The secretary-general of the SLFA at the time Alimu Bah says they had financial challenges and did what they were able to do.
“The financial constraints were too much. We did what we could,” Bah told BBC Sport Africa.
“Kallon volunteered to take charge of his medical bills given that the player was playing for the club he owns, FC Kallon.
“Kallon did well but our country was blacklisted by then because our under-17 players had just absconded from the World Cup tournament in Finland.
“The hospital in Freetown that treated him was the most competent medical institution to take care of him at that time.
“In terms of compensation if there is a way for the government or the SLFA to compensate him it would be a wonderful gesture especially as he got injured while representing Sierra Leone.”
As well as playing for the senior Kamara helped Sierra Leone win the regional Wafu Under-17 tournament in Benin in 1996 before also playing for his country at under-20 level too.
He made the first of his 19 senior appearances in a 2-0 away loss to Sao Tome & Principe in April 2000 in a World Cup preliminary round qualifying match.
At club level, he started his career with former Sierra Leonean champions Freetown United, now Freetown City FC, before moving to Mighty Blackpool with whom he won the first Sierra Leone Premier league in 2001.
Kallon continues to support Kamara by employing his as the team manager for the junior team at his club in Sierra Leone that bears his name.
Source: Modern Ghana