Bernard Kamungo: From Tanzanian refugee camp to playing & scoring against Messi


Bernard Kamungo had four good years playing for the Abilene High School. But before then, he had learned the game playing on the streets of a refugee camp in East Africa’s Tanzania, which his family left for Texas when Bernard was 14.

Four dominant years in the high school ranks made Bernard’s brother, Imani believe his little brother was destined for something more. Bernard didn’t agree: “Back then, I just never saw myself becoming a professional soccer player.”

In Texas, Imani would sign Bernard up for an open tryout with North Texas SC – the reserve team of FC Dallas. “I believed he could be even better but he couldn’t trust himself. So I pushed him every day.”

Bernard impressed at the tryout and earned a professional contract. Then, he scored a few minutes into his pro debut: “That goal made me cry,” he said.

The next season, he led the team in scoring and was rewarded with an FC Dallas contract. He had gone from high school football to the big leagues in under two years: “I wanted to make sure he reached the top level but I never knew it would be so fast like this.”

So far this year, Bernard has impressed, scoring the winner on his debut debut and then hitting another on his first start for his side.

The Leagues Cup – an all-new tournament featuring every club from MLS and Liga MX – became the platform for Bernard to show just how far he’d come, and the winger showed that with a goal and three assists in three games.

Bernard and FC Dallas’ next challenge came against the most star-studded team in MLS history. Inter Miami, featuring the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba—three players who’ve won it all.

Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas was the venue for the Round of 16 clash. Interest, ticket prices and viewership soared to levels never before seen in the club’s history.

It wasn’t too much for Bernard. Or Imani, who accompanied his brother to a game for the first time.

Messi struck first. Compatriot Facundo Quignon leveled for Dallas. Then, it was Bernard’s moment.

Jesús Ferreira found Bernard at the edge of the 18-yard box. As calmly as if he was still on the turf field at Abilene High School, or the dusty streets of the Nyarugusu refugee camp, Bernard side-stepped his first defender before evading the sliding tackle of another. A slight touch with his right foot pushed the ball past the on-rushing goalkeeper before Bernard finished into the empty net.

“The dream continues,” said the commentator.

It wasn’t to be FC Dallas’ night. A scintillating 4-4 draw after 90 minutes led to a penalty shootout where Inter Miami prevailed.

But it was still the Kamungos’ night. Imani had seen his brother – the same brother he’d pushed to tryout for a third division club just three years before – score against a star-studded side.

“I don’t even know how to explain it. It’s just one of those moments because I’ve never scored in front of Imani. That was literally my first time scoring in front of him, and it was against Messi.

“I turned to him and I just told him, ‘that was for you.’ Because he did a lot for me to get to where I am right now. I’m just so happy that he got to see me score.”

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