He may be remembered by West Ham fans as arguably their worst ever signing (and believe me, with the likes of Florin Raducioui, Marco Boogers and Paolo Futre on that list, that is some achievement) but many Liverpool fans will feel nothing but affection for their former Guinea international striker Titi Camara.
Born Aboubacar Sidiki Camara in Conakry Guinea, Camara signed for Saint-Etienne in 1990 as an 18 year old. His pace and power saw him make a name for himself for “Les Verts” and in 1995 Lens snapped him up. He spent two years with Lens before Marseille snapped him up for another two year spell.
It was at this time that Camara began to catch the eye with his pace and power. While never a prolific goalscorer (he managed just 38 goals in his nine years in French football), his pace, power and unselfish running would often unsettle opponents and create chances for his teammates. When in 1999 he became little more than a fringe player at Marseille, behind the likes of Fabrizio Ravanelli and Christoph Dugarry, Camara decided that the £2.6m Liverpool had offered Marseille for his services was the right move for him at this stage of his career.
Although Camara was at Anfield for barely more than a season, he is firmly established in Anfield folklore for good reasons and bad. Consistency was never his strong point, he’d often make a hash of simple passes, miss the simplest of chances, make the wrong decision when in possession all of which would undoubtedly frustrate the manager and support. However nobody could fault his commitment to the club, as typefied by the game against West Ham when he converted a Rigobert Song cross to put Liverpool 1-0 in front, before collapsing onto his knees and weeping copiously (pictured). It transpired that Camara’s father had passed away the night before, but Titi had decided he would play as he was the clubs only fit striker.
In all he played 37 games for Liverpool and scored 10 goals before he fell out with manager Gerrard Houllier and was sold to West Ham for £1.5m in December 2000. Camara never made an impact at West Ham in his 12 games in three years and in 2003 after making barely a ripple in London, he was shipped out on loan to Al-Ittihad before later that year making the move permanent with a switch to Al-Siliya.
He notched an impressive 14 goals in 20 league games for the Saudi Arabian side before he moved back to France with Amiens in 2005, scoring nine times for them in the 2005-2006 season before retiring from the game.
Conversely, despite Camara’s modest scoring record for club sides, he had an outstanding record for Guinea, with 23 goals in just 38 appearances, including playing for his country in four African Nations Cup finals.
Such was Camara’s standing in Guinea that he was named National Technical Director in May 2009 and head coach of the national team in June 2009. It would be a short appointment however, as three months later in September 2009, after just two games in chargem he was replaced as head coach by Mamadi Souare, purportedly due to poor results (notably a 2-1 defeat against Malawi which dented their African Nations qualifying hopes), a perceived “lack of cooperation” with the Guinean football federation and an “absence of cordial relations with key elements” of the Guinean national team.
However Camara was absolved from any blame by player Fode Mansare who stated:
“The problem with Guinea is not a simple problem with the manager but we must also consider the players’ part, because some among us really lack any personality.”
A criticism you could never level at Titi Camara.
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