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Vancouver Whitecaps' Kamara, Ghazal and Waston to play with national teams


VANCOUVER — A trio of Vancouver Whitecaps players are set to don the colours of their national teams next month.

Striker Kei Kamara has been named to Sierra Leone's team and midfielder Aly Ghazal has been called up to play for Egypt.

Both countries are playing in qualifiers for the Africa Cup of Nations in early September, during the MLS international break.

Whitecaps captain Kendall Waston will also be on international assignment over the break, playing for Costa Rica in a pair of friendlies against South Korea and Japan.

It will be the second time in 2018 that the 30-year-old defender dresses for the Ticos, following the team's World Cup run in June. Waston netted a goal for Costa Rica in its last match of the tournament, a 2-2 draw with Switzerland.

Suiting up for your country is a lot of fun, said Kamara, who was born in Kenema, Sierra Leone.

"For me, every time I've been called up to represent Sierra Leone, it's an honour," he said. "And I can't wait to join the guys, be out there. It's a good laugh, good everything. But just to put on your country's colour, your country's flag, it's such a special thing."

The 33-year-old has five goals in 26 appearances for the national team.

Kamara has also been Vancouver's top scorer this season, putting up 11 goals in league play, plus another three in Canadian Championship appearances.

He's itching to score in next month's match in Ethiopia, too, and help Sierra Leone get a step closer to the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations, set to be held in Cameroon. 

Playing in the tournament is something Kamara said he's always dreamt of and he feels that his opportunities are running out.

"I won't have another chance to play in the African Cup. We have three (qualifying) games left and hopefully we give ourselves good results and I can play in one," he said.  

Dressing for Sierra Leone feels different than putting on a Whitecaps uniform, Kamara said. But both the West Africa nation and Vancouver are home, he said, and playing for each is special.

"So it's the best of both worlds. And I just enjoy it," he said.

For Ghazal, playing for both teams is somewhat symbiotic.

"You have to be ready here (in Vancouver) so that when you're there, you're ready to help," said the Cairo native.

The 26-year-old hasn't played for Egypt's men's team since September 2014.

The Pharaohs are known as a dominant force in African soccer, but suffered a disappointing show at this year's World Cup where they were swept from the tournament with three losses.

When Ghazal joins the team playing against Niger next month, he'll be part of a star-studded lineup that includes Orlando City SC defender Amro Tarek and Liverpool FC forward Mohamed Salah.

Ghazal has played alongside Salah before, starting when they trained with Egypt's under-17 team, and said he's looking forward to hitting the field with him again.

Most of all, though, he's looking forward to wearing Egypt's colours.

"It's pride. It's something you look forward to, to represent your country. Just being there and wearing the T-shirt from the national team is something big. It's a great feeling," he said.

Gemma Karstens-Smith, The Canadian Press

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