Monrovia-Liberian Midfielder Nohan Kenneh says he still has ambitions of play in the English Premier League.
Kenneh who is a Leeds United academy graduate signed a pre-contract agreement to join Scottish Premier League side Hibernian in May 2022 and is on loan at Ross County.
By Danesius Marteh, [email protected]
He spent nearly eight years at Elland Road before moving to Easter Road on a three-year deal in search of regular playing time after several unused first-team appearances.
Kenneh was yellow-carded for a wild celebration after the injury-time winner against Wolverhampton Wanderers in the Premier League on 18 March 2022.
With Leeds 2-0 down to 10-man Wolves and less than half an hour to play, goals from Jack Harrison and Rodrigo leveled the score at Molineux with Luke Ayling completing a remarkable turnaround in injury time.
“I was at Leeds academy, maybe 10 or 11, learning all [about] the academy systems and then I went to the first team in the Premier League [but didn’t get the chance to play],” recalled Kenneh.
“And I wanted to play more football. That’s why I went to Scotland. I am now playing football and enjoying myself. We will see what happens in the future hopefully.”
Asked whether he wants a return to the Premier League, Kenneh said: “For every player, that’s the goal. And for me it is just every day taking it step-by-step.
“I am training and in matches trying to improve myself because I don’t want to be too big-headed and focused all day that I need to be in the Premier League, no. I just need to improve myself as a player and everything that’s going to happen will happen.”
Kenneh was born in Grand Gedeh County during the last rounds of the Liberian civil wars on 10 January 2003 but moved to the United Kingdom as a refugee at six.
He played for England at youth levels after stints at Bradford City and York City.
Accompanied by his father Mohammed, Kenneh returned to Liberia for the first time last November and deputy sports minister Andy Quamie grabbed an opportunity to convince him to switch allegiance.
Kenneh was named in new Liberia coach h Ansumana Keita’s 23-man squad for the back-to-back Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers against South Africa.
He debuted in a 2-2 draw at the Orlando Stadium in Johannesburg on 24 March.
The 20-year-old was replaced at half time by Accrington Stanley midfielder Mohammed Sangare, who scored a thunderous equalizer, in the 91st minute.
That result encouraged Liberians to show-up for the return leg and also motivated third-tier side Chrisco United President Chris Geeplay Weah and President George Manneh Weah, who gave bonuses of US$2,500 and US$50,000 and promised US$5,000 and US$100,000 for a win that would have taken Liberia to the finals in neighbouring Ivory Coast.
But Supersport United striker Zakhele Lepasa and Cyprus-based midfielder Mihlali Mayambela scored for Bafana Bafana either side of William Jebor’s goal at the Samuel Kanyon Doe sports complex in Paynesville on 28 March.
It was the second time Liberia had missed a golden opportunity to play at a third Afcon final since Mali 2002, having led Togo 2-0 only to draw 2-2 in Monrovia on 5 June 2016.
Kenneh, who played for England under-17 along with Easter Road teammates Conrad Jaden Egan-Riley and William Thomas Fish as well as Dortmund’s Jude Bellingham and Bayern Munich’s Jamal Musiala, sees lights at the tunnel for Liberia.
“I see a future in this team because of what I have seen over the last few days,” said Kenneh.
“What we have shown in training and matches over the last few days [have been incredible and] I feel we can go far.
“The country has been hungry for victory for a long time. Everyone was optimistic about qualification but that’s life and that’s football. We will make it right next time.”
Kenneh was impressive over the two legs and joins a growing list of footballers, who were either born to Liberian parent(s) abroad or left Liberia at a tender age, including Sangare and Seth Hellberg who choice was influenced by Weah.
“[I am] so proud to have made my international debut. Big character shown from the team!! [The] job ain’t [isn’t] finished. Insha Allah,” Kenneh wrote on Instagram.
And he’s hoping to inspire footballers with Liberian connections to switch allegiance in order to help qualify Liberia for its third Afcon finals in 2025 and first World Cup in 2026.