Damani Camara is a name you know if you follow the teams of the NPSL’s Great Lakes Conference.
Camara was born in New York, but grew up in Guinea. He came back to the U.S. when he was 19 years old. He would go on to play at Michigan’s Jackson College. Later he was discovered in a local pickup game and invited to tryout for FC Columbus. And the rest is history.
In 2018 Camara scored 17 goals and earned Great Lakes Conference XI honors. Media selected him to the Football Manager Team of the Week three times that season. He even scored the club’s first-ever goal in a match against the Milwaukee Torrent. A year later he scored 10 goals and earned Great Lakes Conference XI and NPSL National Player of the Week honors. An injury suffered in preseason caused Camara to miss the entire 2021 NPSL season.
This season he has scored 13 goals in just seven games, giving him a league-leading 1.8571 goals per game. He is just one goal behind El Farolito’s Erik Arias, who leads the league with 14 goals in nine games.
“Damani has worked very hard at returning from injury and coming back even stronger,” FC Columbus assistant coach and operations director J.J. Bain said. “He has always provided goals for the team, but he is providing great energy and leadership this year and is a big reason we have good chemistry on the team right now.”
His continued success in the NPSL led him to sign with German side Türkspor Augsburg in 2018.
“In Germany, I played for the Augsburg junior team where I scored 7 goals in 12 games,” Camara said. “It was a very challenging time for me as I had just lost my dear dad and things were getting very complicated. Nonetheless, I gave it my all, and it was a character-building experience for me.”
Camara has also spent time with the Flint City Bucks and Michigan Stars.
Camara is a talented striker who is absolutely lethal in the attack. He is a proven goalscorer who has led Columbus to a 5-1-1 record this season. The Ohio side is currently in second place in the conference behind Muskegon Risers.
“I would say my style is mostly reliant on my movement and my IQ,” Camara said. “I always try to anticipate and be a step ahead of my opponent. This allows me to be where I need to be at the right time. I also rely on my instincts to exploit any opening and weakness in the opposition’s defense, which is why I tend to score different goals.”
His approach to the game has him prepared for every match.
“I would describe myself as a very competitive player. I hate losing, even in practice, and only find peace with myself knowing I have left everything on the field,” Camara said. “I like to take responsibility and fulfill the rights of my position and gain my teammates’ and my coaches’ confidence and trust.”
Camara clearly can’t do it alone, and a talented FC Columbus squad has helped him every step of the way.
“First and foremost, I would like to give my teammates much credit for always finding me in my most advantageous positions,” Camara said. “As for me, I try to be as unpredictable as possible to unsettle the opposition’s defense. That is why I do my best to be as ambidextrous as possible with my feet. I am comfortable scoring with both feet, with my head, in the box or outside, and from long range. I would humbly point to my record in which it can be noticed that my goals are different types. Since I have played across the front four as an attacking mid, or on either wing and as a striker, it has helped me develop different skills to hurt my opponents. Furthermore, whenever I can, I also try to study the defense I am facing by watching previous games or getting some information about them.”
Camara set many goals for himself and the team, and they are clearly on their way to achieving them.
“Most importantly winning as many games as possible is the target,” Camara said. “Then personally, contributing to those wins in the best way I can is my primary focus whether it is by scoring goals, assisting as a striker or doing whatever is required of me based on the position. As for my goals, I set realistic targets for myself and keep in mind that I can always push it further. Anything that will ultimately take me closer to succeeding is a small victory for me.”
Camara admits that he has learned a great deal during his time in the NPSL.
“There are no easy games,” Camara said. “Everyone is just as competitive as I am, so constantly improving is the only way to succeed. Every team gets the same respect as the next, therefore deserve nothing but to face me at my best without excuses. I have a very competitive nature and have learned to temper my frustration when things do not go as planned. I have matured a lot in this league and use criticism to improve.”
Fans and supporters across the country should keep an eye on Damani Camara as he is in the midst of a battle for the 2022 Capelli Sport NPSL Golden Boot. This is one of the league’s highest honors, and Camara has been working toward this achievement for several seasons.
Clearly it will be an exciting end to the season as awards and playoff spots will be earned in the coming weeks.
Photo Credit: Sarim Siddiqui/HT Productions