Sierra Leonean free agent Alhaji Kamara, who defied a potentially career-ending medical diagnosis to continue playing football, says he still has “more to give to the game.”
In 2016, doctors declared the striker had a heart defect whilst at Swedish club Norrkoping, a finding which briefly halted his career.
The problem was detected after he underwent a mandatory Uefa medical examination before IFK Norrkoping’s participation in the European Champions League qualifiers.
The 24-year old had just won the 2015 Swedish league title with Norrkoping.
He was advised not to take part in top-level football for the foreseeable future because his heart defect was unusual and carried a great risk of ‘sudden death at maximum effort.’
After further tests in the USA later in 2016, he was given medical clearance to resume his career and was signed by MLS club DC United.
He went on to play for USA second tier team Richmond Kickers, Al-Taawoun in Saudi Arabia and FC Sheriff in Moldova where he played in both the Uefa Champions League and Europa League qualifiers.
Kamara is currently a free agent after leaving FC Sheriff, where he scored nine goals in 14 league appearances and he insists he is in good health.
“I still believe I have more time in the game,” Kamara told BBC Sport.
“I’m always fine. I’m healthy, I’m strong, I have never had any heart problem symptoms.
“I went to USA and did tests and I was cleared to play in MLS. I also went to Portugal. I did tests before I joined Al-Taawoun of Saudi Arabia and I went to Europe as well to play for Moldovan side FC Sheriff after undergoing further tests.
“I was cleared to play in Europe as I played in this season’s preliminary stages in the Uefa Champions League and Europa league qualifiers with FC Sheriff.”
Kamara admitted that it was hard for him when he was told about his heart condition but never considered stopping playing – even though he was advised by friends to quit.
“It was shocking, I didn’t feel good but with the help of God, with hard work, with lots of faith and with support from my family and friends I was able to overcome the situation,” he explained.
“I never considered quitting football. My friends showed concern after they heard the news and they took pity on me.
“But I tried to be positive. Some asked me to stop playing but I encouraged them that I would be safe to be back playing.”
He is in search of a new club, and as he recovers from a hernia operation, he says he is not interested in returning to Sweden.
“For now I’m not considering to play again in Sweden because I can’t change the perception about my situation,” he continued.
“I have put everything behind me. Now I’m a free agent and I’m talking to clubs. I don’t have a problem playing in Europe or elsewhere.
“I’m working on my fitness because I went through surgery in November, but I’m getting better. I’m back into running.
“So I talk with clubs and I make myself clear to them about my surgery – I’m getting back to playing very soon.”
Kamara has not played for Sierra Leone since his heart problem was discovered. He was invited to join up with Sierra Leone for their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Kenya in Freetown in June 2017,
At the time, he said his then club – DC United – had insisted on having a defibrillator at the stadium as a precautionary measure.
But the Sierra Leone FA (SLFA) said they could not afford to guarantee the prompt and professional medical attention to him in case of an incident on the pitch, and as a result Kamara did not play in the qualifier.
“The thing about the defibrillator is for the precautionary measure for every player on the pitch,” Kamara said as he reflected on events from 2017.
“DC United always had it on the pitch whether I was playing or not because they’ve seen accidents on the pitch several times.
“There’s no special treatment or care for me on the pitch. Whatever you see on the pitch is for all the players on the field.