Kei Kamara: Five things you didn't know about the Columbus Crew star

    One-on-one with Kei Kamara
    One-on-one with Kei Kamara

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      One-on-one with Kei Kamara

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    One-on-one with Kei Kamara 02:03

    Story highlights

    • Kamara stars for MLS club Columbus Crew SC
    • Striker, 31, has also played in England
    • He made 23 appearances for Sierra Leone
    • Recently ended international career

    (CNN)Kei Kamara has had an incredible year in the United States' Major League Soccer.

    The Columbus Crew SC forward netted 22 goals in the regular season to be equal top scorer with former Juventus forward Sebastian Giovinco, who was awarded the MLS Golden Boot by virtue of making more assists than Kamara (16-8).
      CNN's Don Riddell sat down with the former Kansas City, Norwich and Middlesbrough player, who spoke to him about leaving war-torn Sierra Leone as a teenager and becoming a collectible mini toy figurine.

      1. Childhood nightmares

      Kamara is living the American dream, having come a long way from his terrifying childhood in Sierra Leone. He told CNN he still has nightmares about what he witnessed during the civil war, including an execution in the street.
      He knows he's lucky that he was able to escape to the U.S. as a refugee, without being harmed or "recruited" as a child soldier.

      2. Unintentional soccer player

      It was never Kamara's plan to play professional football in the U.S. -- he just wanted to flee the war and be with his family. Now he prays for the refugees who are flooding into Europe from troubled lands and feels particularly sorry for the children. He knows it has nothing to do with them and is very aware they have seen things that will haunt them forever.

      3. Snowball fights

      Perhaps that's why he's such a fun-loving guy now. Kamara's big smile and big personality is very much in evidence on his social media feeds. When Kamara was playing in Kansas City he was so excited by the sight of snow that he challenged the team's fans to a snowball fight. About 200 of them turned up to play!

      4. Blessed football boots

      Despite having played professional football for more than a decade, Kamara still gets nervous before big matches. His pre-game ritual is always the same -- as a Muslim he recites the opening verses of the Koran to his boots to bless them, before kissing them for good luck and protection.

      5. The Kamara toy

      You know you've made it when a mini figurine is created in your image. Actually, Kamara didn't know much about plastic toy collectibles when he was growing up -- it wasn't something kids played with in Africa.
      But he's excited about it now and he's ordered dozens of little Kamara mini replicas for his nieces and nephews as Christmas presents. Even so he was still surprised when I showed him how to rip the toy's head off and put on the legs backwards. I think we're still friends!