On 11 November, NorthEast United played Chennaiyin FC in one of the most exciting games of the second edition of the Indian Super League. The side with eight states behind them had been having a topsy-turvy season with wins and losses in almost equal number. With Chennaiyin leading 1-0 thanks to an Elano goal, Diomansy Kamara decided to take matters into his own hands.
A cross from Bruno was headed on target by Kamara only for goalkeeper Edel to stand in his way. But Edel punched it straight back at Kamara who found the target from point-blank range.
Kamara wasn’t done yet. In the 71st minute, sensing a victory over a wasteful Chennaiyin side, NorthEast United coach Cesar Farias made a change. He brought on Silas for Simao, and Kamara took less than a minute to combine with his Portuguese teammate to take the lead.
With the ball at his feet in midfield, Kamara spotted Silas making a run into the box and sent in a disguised through ball that beat three Chennaiyin defenders. That allowed Silas to take a touch before his shot found the back of the net.
The result would have major consequences in the long run. It would be NorthEast United’s second win over Marco Materazzi’s side this season – a double. Meanwhile, it was Chennaiyin’s third loss at home, leaving their semi-final hopes hanging by a thread.
After NorthEast United beat Pune City 3-2 today to jump back into the top four, they await the result of the game to be played between Chennaiyin and Pune City to see if they qualify for the semifinals or not. This being the last game for NUFC proved a good one for Kamara as he picked up the DHL Winning Pass award for his efforts through the season – an award presented to each team’s highest assist-maker in the ISL this season.
Throughout the course of football history, fans only remember two major aspects of the game – which team won titles and which players scored the most goals. Players who make the final pass for the assist are reduced to mere footnotes in history.
Everyone remembers Andres Iniesta scoring the winner in the 2010 World Cup final against Netherlands but who remembers Cesc Fabregas’s brilliant pass to set him up? Who remembers the final pass for Mario Gotze to score in the 2014 final when Germany beat Argentina? It was Andre Schurrle’s cross that found him in the box.
With the winning pass awards, DHL has bought these unsung heroes on the same pedestal as goalscorers, and are giving them their due credit. Justifiably so too; Kamara has been instrumental in NorthEast United’s quest for a semi-final spot after they finished dead last in 2014.
After three consecutive losses in their first three matches, NorthEast United’s season seemed to be going the same way as last year. But six wins and two draws in their subsequent eight games saw them rise up the table, much to the delight of the fans.
They did the double over defending champions Atletico de Kolkata as well on their way to finishing on 20 points after 14 games. It remains to be seen if they can finish in the top four depending on the result between Chennaiyin and Pune City on Saturday, but there's no doubting their fighting spirit.
At the heart of their resurgence has been the France-born Senegalese footballer. Kamara may be 35 years old, but he has shown that he still has the quality to play in a demanding schedule such as the ISL.
The signature goal celebration made famous the world over during his spell with Premier League side Fulham has seen the Highlanders finish the league stage on a high. The fans will no doubt hope he remains with the team in the 2016 edition as well.