So, Aboubakar Kamara’s time at Craven Cottage has come to an end. The mercurial forward has finally completed a move to Greek Super League side Aris Thessaloniki for a reported £3m. To say, the French-Mauritian striker has had a colourful period with the club would be something of an understatement. Signed with great fanfare, Kamara certainly contributed to the Whites’ two Championship promotions but I could never quite shake the feeling that he could have been something seriously special had he developed on the raw physical attributes he honed at Amiens.
When I first moved into university in the lull between England and Wales’ first and second lockdowns, a non-Fulham supporting flatmate asked me to introduce them to our squad as we watched the first game of the season. I’m not sure if I was being charitable or unkind to Kamara in responding as follows: “I don’t know whether he is brilliant or terrible. He’s like a rapidly moving wardrobe, no one can stop him. On the one hand, the defenders don’t know what he is going to do next, which can be exhilarating to watch. However, it often feels like he too doesn’t know exactly what he is going to do next.”
One of his final passages of play in a Fulham shirt against Middlesbrough summed Kamara up for me. Sent in on search of a late winner after the disappointment of Marc Bola’s second half equaliser, Kamara had the perfect opportunity to put his searing pace to good use on the counter attack. But he explicably elected to turn into traffic and underhit an attempted pass to Aleksandar Mitrovic. Suddenly, a very presentable chance had evaporated – and the look on Mitrovic’s face said it all.
There are other examples – such as his last-gasp miss at Birmingham in 2019/2020 still vivid in my own mind – but Kamara did provide a fair few moments of magic. He turned a game that looked well beyond Fulham right around with a brilliant brace at Hull City and played a similar role in two comebacks against Ipswich Town and QPR, when he led the line in place of the suspended Mitrovic brilliantly. But for many the events that will define Kamara’s Craven Cottage career occurred during Fulham’s excruciating relegation from the top flight in 2018/2019.
The first cracks appeared in the final days of 2018, during one of only three wins under Claudio Ranieri. Mitrovic won the Whites a penalty ten minutes from time in a pivotal basement battle against Huddersfield but Kamara, the club’s top scorer at the time, wrestled the ball from the Serb striker’s arms and refused his teammates’ pleas to return it. His tame spot-kick was saved – and although Mitrovic spared his blushes with a memorable stoppage time winner – Ranieri memorably told a post-match television interview that he was so angry with Kamara that he ‘wanted to kill him’.
The situation escalated off the field in the weeks afterwards. Mitrovic, who had given a far kinder answer to Kamara’s predicament by recalling his own penalty woes in a similar incident earlier in his own career at Newcastle, was less than impressed by Kamara’s incessant chattering during a yoga session and told him to ‘shut up’. The press gleefully reported the subsequent ‘violent altercation’ between the pair. In late January, Kamara was arrested on suspicion of actual bodily harm and criminal damage at Motspur Park after attempting to discuss his future with the Fulham hierarchy and was shipped out to Yeni Malatyaspor on loan.
Scott Parker opted to reintegrate him into the senior squad upon Kamara’s return from Turkey, but he never successfully nailed down a spot in the starting line-up. Now, the time has come to say goodbye to the colourful forward – whose eccentric social media posts and eye-catching fashion tastes certainly enlivened our Fulham existence. ‘The beast, as Aris have dubbed him, heads off to Greece to start a new adventure soon to be replaced in SW6 by Brazilian youngster, Rodrigo Muniz.
It’s fair to say that Kamara’s time with Fulham divided the fanbase. What are your thoughts on his Craven Cottage career?