COLUMBUS – This past Saturday, moments after he took the field, he scored his first goal as a Columbus Crew SC player. He celebrated with his teammates, and soon after followed that goal with an assist on another Crew goal. It’s what fans have been waiting to see from Kekuta Manneh. He’s an extremely talented 22-year-old who’s been nursing injuries since arriving to Columbus in April.
But his arrival to America… that’s a much longer story.
It starts in his native country of Gambia along the western coast of Africa. He as identified as a young player with significant talent by American coaches and eventually recruited to play in an academy in America. He stayed briefly in Atlanta, and then joined a larger program in the Houston area.
That’s where he met the Niccum family. They agreed to serve as Kekuta’s host family there, and they quickly made an impression on him. The Niccum’s already had 3 kids of their own, including a son who would be a teammate on Kekuta’s club soccer team. After a year Kekuta’s immigration status was up and he had to decide whether to head back to Gambia or make arrangements to stay in America. The Niccum family decided they wanted Kekuta to join their family, and that’s when Manneh decided to pursue American citizenship.
This past January Kekutah gained his full citizenship and could become an eligible player for the U.S. Men’s National Team.