Kamara pictured at a charity event in April 2011
|Full name||Christopher Kamara|
|Date of birth||25 December 1957|
|Place of birth||Middlesbrough, England|
|Height||6 ft 1 in (1.85 m)|
|1992–1993||→ Sheffield United (loan)||8||(0)|
|1993||→ Middlesbrough (loan)||5||(0)|
|* Senior club appearances and goals counted for the domestic league only|
As a player, he was known as a tough-tackling midfielder. He joined the Royal Navy at the age of 16, before being signed up to Portsmouth in November 1974. He spent three years at the club before being sold on to Swindon Town for £14,000. He returned to Portsmouth in 1981 for a £50,000 fee, but was traded to Brentford in October 1981. He spent four years with the "Bees" before leaving the club after picking up a runners-up medal in the Football League Trophy in 1985.
He re-signed with Swindon Town in August 1985 and helped the club to two successive promotions into the Second Division. He moved on to Stoke City in 1988, and a successful spell with the club won him a move to Leeds United in 1990. He helped the club to the Second Division title in 1989–90, but was never a first team regular before being sold to Luton Town for £150,000 in 1991. He had loan spells with Premier League clubs Sheffield United and Middlesbrough, before joining Sheffield United on a permanent basis in 1993. The following year he joined Bradford City as a player-coach.
He was appointed Bradford City manager in November 1995 and took the club from a relegation scrap to promotion out of the Second Division via the play-offs in 1996. He left the club in January 1998 and quickly took the reins at Stoke City, before he left the "Potters" in April 1998. From there he became a broadcaster with Sky Sports and has since appeared as a presenter on numerous other television programmes.
Kamara was born in Middlesbrough, North Riding of Yorkshire, to a Sierra Leonean father – Alimamy Kindo "Albert" Kamara – on Christmas Day in 1957. Through his father he was eligible to play for Sierra Leone, and was called up to play in the 1994 African Cup of Nations, though he declined the offer.
His father was a heavy gambler, leaving his mother Irene to sometimes plead for money from neighbours in order to provide food for Chris and his brother George and sister Maria. Being one of the few black families in Park End, Middlesbrough, the family suffered racist abuse.
He joined the Royal Navy at age 16, at the insistence of his father, himself a former naval mariner. In doing so he missed the youth cup final for Middlesbrough Boys, though he went on to play for the Royal Navy's football team. He was trained at HMS Raleigh at Torpoint and later transferred to HMS Vernon.
Kamara's football career started when he was spotted playing for the Navy by Portsmouth manager Ian St John, who signed him on apprentice wages in November 1974 after agreeing to pay the Navy a £200 buy-out fee. Youth team coach Ray Crawford told the Portsmouth News that Kamara was "weak in the air, his marking is wayward and he hasn't got much positional sense", but privately told Kamara that he had to the potential to become a first team player. He made his first team debut in August 1975 in a 2–0 defeat by Luton Town, winning his chance after Mick Mellows was struck down with a knee injury. The next match he scored his first senior goal in a 4–1 loss to Bolton Wanderers after being set up by Bobby McGuinness. He went on to play regular football at Fratton Park in the 1975–76 season as "Pompey" were relegated out of the Second Division in last place. The club avoided relegation out of the Third Division by a single point in 1976–77, after which new manager Jimmy Dickinson sold Kamara to Third Division rivals Swindon Town for £14,000.
Upon joining Swindon he was sent death threats by Portsmouth supporters, and was given police escorts to the County Ground. He scored on his debut against Sheffield Wednesday at Hillsborough, but was frequently left out of the starting eleven by manager Danny Williams during the 1977–78 campaign. New boss Bobby Smith took the "Robins" to within three points of promotion in 1978–79, and then the semi-finals of the League Cup in 1979–80. John Trollope replaced Smith as manager following a dismal start to the 1980–81 campaign, and he sold Kamara back to Portsmouth for £50,000.
He was re-signed to Portsmouth by Frank Burrows, who had previously coached Kamara at Swindon. However, in October 1981 he was again transferred after Brentford manager Fred Callaghan agreed to a swap deal with David Crown going the other way. Kamara was paired with Terry Hurlock in a highly committed central midfield partnership at Griffin Park. He settled in well during the 1981–82 campaign and scored a career best of 11 goals in the 1982–83 season as Brentford posted two top ten finishes. The club then struggled to just one place above the Third Division relegation zone in 1983–84 before rising to 13th place in 1984–85. He won a Football League Trophy runners-up medal in 1985, playing at Wembley in a 3–1 defeat by Wigan Athletic. He took the decision to leave the club in summer 1985 after he rejected manager Frank McLintock's offer of a new one-year contract on the same terms.
Kamara re-joined Swindon Town in August 1985 for a fee of £12,500 despite suffering from a ruptured hamstring tendon. Under the guidance of Lou Macari the "Robins" won promotion out of the Fourth Division as champions in 1985–86, though Kamara missed the first half of the campaign and only played 23 games. He missed just four games of the 1986–87 season as Swindon secured a second successive promotion by beating Gillingham in the play-offs; Kamara missed the replay but played in the original home and away leg fixtures of the tie. However, Kamara became the first English player to be convicted of grievous bodily harm for an on-pitch incident, after breaking Shrewsbury Town player Jim Melrose's cheekbone with a punch straight after the final whistle of a game in the 1987–88 season; he was fined £1,200.
Kamara moved on again in the summer of 1988 after choosing to reject Swindon's offer of a one-year contract. He instead joined Mick Mills at Stoke City. He was paired with Peter Beagrie in central midfield at the Victoria Ground. He had a good 1988–89 season, scoring five goals in 44 appearances and he won the player of the year award. On 19 August 1989 he broke West Ham United's Frank McAvennie's leg in a 50/50 challenge; McAvennie attempted to sue Kamara for damages but was unsuccessful. Midway through the 1989–90 season Mills was dismissed and replaced by Alan Ball, who promptly sold Kamara to Leeds United. In joining Leeds he rejected the offer to join Bruce Rioch's Middlesbrough – his hometown club that was owned by childhood friend Steve Gibson.
At Elland Road were David Batty, Vinnie Jones, Gordon Strachan and Gary Speed; the presence of these highly skilled midfielders meant that Kamara was frequently left on the bench by manager Howard Wilkinson. Kamara helped Leeds win the Second Division title in 1989–90 but appeared sparingly for the "Whites" in the First Division after finding himself injured with an Achilles tendon problem during the 1990–91 campaign. He left Leeds in November 1991 and they went on to win the First Division title.
Kamara remained in the top-flight by joining David Pleat's Luton Town for a £150,000 fee after returning to full fitness. The "Hatters" were relegated on the last day of the 1991–92 season after letting slip a 1–0 lead over Notts County to lose the game 2–1.
In October 1992, Kamara returned to the Premier League after joining Dave Bassett's Sheffield United on loan. Despite failing to nail down a regular first team place in the 1992–93 season he made the move from Kenilworth Road to Bramall Lane permanent. Before joining United he finally joined his hometown club Middlesbrough, albeit on a one-month loan, in February 1993. His spell at Ayresome Park lasted just five games as manager Lennie Lawrence could not afford to offer him a permanent contract. The "Blades" were relegated at the end of the 1993–94 campaign after slipping into the relegation zone on the final day of the season after a defeat by Chelsea.
Kamara signed with Bradford City in summer 1994 after being offered a playing-coaching role by manager Lennie Lawrence. The "Bantams" struggled in the 1994–95 season, though Kamara was promoted to assistant manager in April 1995.
In November 1995, Bradford City chairman Geoffrey Richmond dismissed manager Lennie Lawrence and elevated Kamara from assistant manager to take Lawrence's place. His goal was to keep the "Bantams" out of the relegation zone by the end of the 1995–96 season. However, the club went on a run of just three defeats in the final 13 games to secure a place in the play-offs. They turned round a 2–0 defeat at Valley Parade in the first leg of the play-off semi-finals to beat Blackpool at Bloomfield Road. Promotion was secured with a 2–0 victory over Notts County in the play-off final with goals from Des Hamilton and Mark Stallard.
He signed Australian goalkeeper Mark Schwarzer from 1. FC Kaiserslautern for £150,000, who proved to be a more than adequate replacement for Gavin Ward who was sold to Bolton Wanderers for £300,000. He paid a club record £550,000 for Gordon Watson, who played just two games before being badly injured after a challenge from Huddersfield Town defender Kevin Gray. The 1996–97 season saw Bradford narrowly escape relegation after a final day victory over Queens Park Rangers.
In summer 1997 he brought in Darren Moore and Robbie Blake, whilst paying £50,000 for Jamie Lawrence and another £50,000 for Peter Beagrie. He also signed Brazilian striker Edinho and former England international Chris Waddle on free transfers. He remained at Valley Parade until he left the club in January 1998. He and chairman Geoffrey Richmond had fallen out over Richmond's insistence on becoming heavily involved in the club's transfer policy. He recommended his assistant Paul Jewell to be his successor, who went on to have his own highly successful spell as Bradford's manager.
On 22 January 1998 he was appointed manager of one of his former clubs, Stoke City, and arrived with bold intentions at the Britannia Stadium stating that he would build a squad good enough to take the club into the Premier League. However, with Stoke already in serious relegation trouble in 1997–98, Kamara sold their only player of real value, Andy Griffin to Newcastle United. He fell out with Chief Executive Jez Moxey over how to spend the proceeds of the sale; Moxey wanted Marco Gabbiadini but Kamara vetoed the deal. He instead spent £350,000 on Coventry City striker Kyle Lightbourne. In his 14 games in charge with the "Potters", only one was won and he was dismissed on 8 April 1998. In Kamara's three months in charge, Stoke could not recover from their poor form and were relegated to the third tier.
Kamara gave up on management after his time at Stoke City and instead worked as a pundit for a number of television and radio stations. He won a regular slot on Soccer Extra with Brian Woolnough in 1999, and from there was asked by Rob McCaffrey to contribute to Soccer Saturday on Sky Sports. There he was asked to attend a match on Saturday and appear over live video link providing brief updates on the match. At the time this was an untried concept in the UK, and Kamara and his camera crew largely learned how to best present the format as they went along. He quickly became well known on the programme for his highly excitable nature, propensity for comical gaffes and tendency to come out with unusual sayings that baffled host Jeff Stelling and the other studio pundits, such as his observation that the Tottenham players were "fighting like beavers" in their match against Arsenal. In one of his more famous on-air gaffes, he failed to realise that Anthony Vanden Borre had been sent off in the game he was watching between Portsmouth and Blackburn, instead thinking that he had been substituted.
Kamara has also presented the weekly Sky Sports show Goals on Sunday since August 2000 and provides additional commentary on some of Sky's televised matches. He is also a regular guest on Soccer AM, interviewing players and managers at grounds around the country.
Before the 2010 FIFA World Cup, Kamara changed his name by deed poll to Chris Cabanga (Cabanga is a Zulu word meaning 'to think' or 'imagine') in response to a Facebook campaign supported by 20,000 people.
In 2012, he made a one-off appearance for Mid Wales Football League side Welshpool Town, after his Sky Sports colleague Jeff Stelling mocked the strugglers following the club's 10–1 loss to Waterloo Rovers the previous week. Welshpool manager David Jones e-mailed Sky explaining how the club nearly folded, and Sky made amends by arranging for Kamara to play for them. He played the full 90 minutes, in midfield in a 6–1 defeat, assisting a goal with a corner.
Kamara co-presents the ITV series Ninja Warrior UK alongside Ben Shephard and Rochelle Humes. The first series began airing in April 2015 and the second in January 2016. A third series of Ninja Warrior UK began in December 2016. In 2015, Kamara took part in ITV's Give a Pet a Home series which worked alongside the RSPCA in Birmingham.
In February 2016, Kamara appeared in an episode of The Great Sport Relief Bake Off and in June 2016, he provided the commentary for Soccer Aid 2016 alongside Clive Tyldesley. Since February 2017, Kamara has provided commentary for the 'Ant vs. Dec' segment of Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway.
In September 2000, Chris Kamara's Street Soccer was released for the PlayStation, for which Kamara provided both commentary and some basic motion capture for player animation, with the concept of the game pre-dating the EA Sports' FIFA Street series. He was also a commentator for 2005's This Is Football, alongside Peter Drury.
In December 2011, Kamara was awarded 'The Above & Beyond in Memory of Sir Bill Cotton award' for his contributions to Marie Curie Cancer Care. He, and a team of Football League ambassadors, including Brendan Rodgers, Aidy Boothroyd, and Middlesbrough chairman Steve Gibson managed to raise £385,000 for the charity and to climb to the peak of Mount Kilimanjaro. As well as being an Ambassador for Marie Curie Cancer Care, Kamara became an Ambassador of the Special Olympics Great Britain Organisation in April 2011 after taking part in the Special Olympics Unity Cup as a celebrity partner before the Germany v Argentina quarter-final match in Cape Town, during the 2010 FIFA World Cup.
He married Anne in 1982 and the couple have two sons, Ben and Jack.
As a player
|Club||Season||League||FA Cup||League Cup||Other[A]||Total|
|Swindon Town||1977–78||Third Division||40||10||3||0||6||1||0||0||49||11|
|Swindon Town||1985–86||Fourth Division||20||1||0||0||0||0||2||0||22||1|
|Stoke City||1988–89||Second Division||38||4||3||0||2||1||1||0||44||5|
|Leeds United||1989–90||Second Division||11||1||0||0||0||0||0||0||11||1|
|Luton Town||1991–92||First Division||28||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||29||0|
|Sheffield United (loan)||1992–93||Premier League||8||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||8||0|
|Middlesbrough (loan)||1992–93||Premier League||5||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||5||0|
|Sheffield United||1993–94||Premier League||16||0||1||0||0||0||0||0||17||0|
|Bradford City||1994–95||Second Division||23||3||2||0||3||0||2||1||30||4|
As a manager
|Bradford City||27 November 1995||6 January 1998||112||40||26||46||35.7|
|Stoke City||22 January 1998||8 April 1998||14||1||5||8||7.1|
As a player
As a Manager
- Football League Second Division play-off winner: 1996
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- Kamara 2011, p. 209
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- Maertin, Andrew (9 April 1998). "Kamara leaves struggling Stoke". The Independent. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
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- "Chris Cabanga". bristolcity.vitalfootball.co.uk. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
- "When VitalEngland met Chris Cabanga". england.vitalfootball.co.uk. Archived from the original on 14 July 2014. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
- "Cabanga chant to help England win World Cup". newslite.tv. Archived from the original on 29 January 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
- "Sky Sports' Chris Kamara plays for Welshpool Town after 10–1 ribbing". BBC News. 28 January 2012.
- Susannah Alexander (20 March 2015). "Julian Clary, Peter Andre, Kimberly Wyatt for ITV's Give a Pet a Home". Digital Spy.
- Laura Love (11 December 2015). "Chris Kamara to star in Great British Bake Off Sport Relief special". gazettelive.
- "Great British Bake Off: Samantha Cameron set for charity special". BBC News.
- "Keith Lemon on Instagram: "The last day filming keyhole. Great panel"". Instagram. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
- McCoid, Sophie (25 June 2019). "Emmerdale fans thrilled as Chris Kamara makes unexpected cameo in soap". liverpoolecho. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
- "Warnock wins manager of the month award". Lancashire Telegraph. Retrieved 3 December 2019.
- "Biography". srtrc.org. Archived from the original on 2 December 2013. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
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- "Marie Curie awards honour volunteers". mariecurie.org.uk. Archived from the original on 13 January 2016. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
- "Chris Kamara at National Unified Football Competition". specialolympicsgb.org.uk. Archived from the original on 15 August 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
- "Unbelievable!". The Football Association. Archived from the original on 12 May 2012. Retrieved 17 November 2013.
- Kamara 2011, p. 169
- Chris Kamara at the English National Football Archive (subscription required)
- Chris Kamara management career statistics at Soccerbase
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