Sierra Leone goalkeeper Mohamed Nbalie Kamara says watching coverage of the Premier League helped him shut out Algeria in their Africa Cup of Nations opener.
Manchester City winger Riyad Mahrez, who captains the Desert Foxes, was among the Algerians who saw efforts kept out by the 22-year-old in their goalless Group E opener in Douala on Tuesday.
“I watch Mahrez over and over and over for Manchester City,” Nbalie Kamara told BBC Sport Africa.
“I know Mahrez but Mahrez doesn’t know me. I know how strong Mahrez is but Mahrez doesn’t know my weaknesses. So, I worked on his strengths and applied (that) in the field.”
“Even the player who plays in West Ham [Said Benrahma], I’ve watched him. All those players who play abroad, the fact that they didn’t score against us was a great thing for me.”
Nbalie Kamara, who plays in his homeland for East End Lions, made a string of saves to keep the defending champions at bay and help the Leone Stars begin their first Nations Cup campaign since 1996 with a 0-0 draw.
His performance drew praise from the country’s president Julius Maada Bio, who described it as “excellent” on social media, after Algeria’s record goalscorer Islam Slimani, striker Baghdad Bounedjah and left-back Ramy Bensebaini all saw efforts saved.
“I remember the first [attempt] I cleared, one of their strikers told me ‘Be careful, be careful’,” Nbalie Kamara said. “He wanted to scare me, but I didn’t listen to him.”
“It brought us a lot of energy; it changed our career playing against the defending champions.
“They have players who play in the English Premier League, so many clubs in Europe. You want to meet those players, and then you play them and end up in a draw. It’s a great opportunity for us.”
Move on the cards for Nbalie Kamara?
Sierra Leone face Ivory Coast in their next Group E game on Sunday (16:00 GMT), but Nbalie Kamara is not daunted by the challenge posed by the two-time winners after their display against Algeria.
“This team too has big names, but football is not about big names,” he said.
“What you achieve in the pitch is what you are going to get. I’m ready, and I’m focussed and determined for next match.”
Nbalie Kamara hopes his performances in Cameroon could get him his own move to Europe – and perhaps join Mahrez in England’s top flight.
“I would like to play in English Premier League, every player in the world would like to play there,” he said. “But if any offer come to me, I would take that offer.”
Sierra Leone conclude their group campaign when they take on Equatorial Guinea in Limbe on 20 January.