When football fans name the best strikers Liberia can boast of today, the name Kpah Sherman always makes the list.
Whether ranked first, second, or third, the Kedah F.A. striker has established himself as one of the best foreign-based players with his lethal performances in the Malaysian Super and Premier Leagues over the last three years.
Shermanâ€™s journey hasnâ€™t always been easy. Heâ€™s gone from struggling in Liberian football to playing amateur football in Sweden before playing for relatively low salaries in the northern Cypriot league. He then returned to Africa to play in Tanzania, then struggled for game time in South Africa before moving to Malaysia, where he has established himself as one of the best players in the top flight.
Sherman began his career in Liberia with a short stint with Aries FC, which was owned by his father. After briefly featuring for both Mighty Barrolle and the Barrack Young Controllers Football Club in the top Liberian league, a 19-year-old Sherman opted for a challenge abroad in 2011.
In Sweden, Sherman played for the fourth-tier HÃ¤rnÃ¶sands FF. He lasted sixth months at the club and moved to DÃ¼zkaya KOSK in the KTFF Super Lig, which is at the top of northern Cypriot football.
There, Sherman noted that his motivation was more than money.
â€œThe salary in the league was very small,â€ he told The Bush Chicken. â€œWhen I first moved there, I was told that Iâ€™d play for under US$2,000. At that moment, the money didnâ€™t really matter as I wanted to just play football and improve as a football.â€
He spent a season with DÃ¼zkaya and moved to the leagueâ€™s most successful club, Ã‡etinkaya TÃ¼rk Spor KulÃ¼bÃ¼, on a two-year deal. Sherman made instant impact by scoring 14 goals in 13 games to help the team win the league. Unfortunately for him, the club went bankrupt and couldnâ€™t afford his wage, as small as it was.
He then moved on loan to Lefke TÃ¼rk S.K.Â the following season where he continued with his high performance, scoring 16 goals in 24 league games to help the club win its first-ever trophy in 47 years. During that campaign, Sherman finished as the FA Cupâ€™s highest scorer with eight goals. He ended the season with 24 goals in all competitions and took a new challenge outside of Europe when he joined Young African Sports Club, commonly called YANGA, in the Tanzanian premier league.
Shermanâ€™s Liberian fans were not exactly happy to see him return to the continent, as the European leagues are considered more lucrative and more challenging. However, with YANGA being one of the major clubs in Africa that frequently appears in continental competitions, Sherman saw it as an opportunity to show his skills to Africa.
â€œI love challenges in my football career,â€ he reflected on the move. â€œI spent three years in northern Cyprus and won two trophies. I would have loved to continue playing there but an offer came for me from Tanzania and it was a big opportunity for me. YANGA is a one of the best clubs in Tanzania and in east Africa. They have great history and it was challenge for me. I accepted it and moved on.â€
In his debut and only time in Tanzania, he scored six league goals and registered five assists to help YANGA win the 2014-15 Tanzanian Premier League. Shermanâ€™s performance in Tanzania caught the attention of many South African clubs. After a season with YANGA, the young striker joined the Mpumalanga Black Aces, now called Cape Town City Football Club, on a three-year deal for an undisclosed amount.
The presence of veteran Zambian striker Collins Mbesuma on the team severely limited Shermanâ€™s playing time as he made most of his appearances from the bench. In five appearances, he registered two assists without scoring and moved to first division club Santos FC for the second phase of the 2015-16 South African league. There, he scored once and assisted three times in eight games.
Sherman moved back to northern Cyprus to rejoin his former club, Ã‡etinkaya. He played half of the 2017 season with Ã‡etinkaya. Later, he received an offer at the end of the season from the former Malaysian Premier League side MISC-MIFA, now called Petaling Jaya City FC. Always hungry for a new challenge, Sherman accepted the call and moved to Malaysia before the start of the 2017 Malaysia Premier League second phase.
Despite moving to a new team and a different continent, Sherman lived up to expectations by scoring seven goals and registering three assists to help the club escape the relegation zone at the end of the season. He was the target of many clubs in Malaysia and Southeast Asia at the end of the season; however, Sherman opted to spend the 2018 season with MISC-MIFA. Again, he lived up to expectations and scored 14 goals in 19 games to help the club gain promotion to the Super League.
Again, the offers rolled in at the end of the season, and Sherman felt it was time to move on. Joining PKNS FC on a one-year deal, 2019 became a remarkable year for Sherman, as he finished as the leagueâ€™s top scorer with 16 goals in 22 games. He was also nominated for the leagueâ€™s best player.
At the end of the 2019 season, Sherman moved again to Kedah FA, where he scored three goals in four league games before the Coronavirus pandemic shut the league down.
His consistency in scoring goals at the club level has made Sherman a regular fixture on the Lone Star team since 2017, where he has netted goals twice in eight games. The first goal for Liberia came in a friendly with Nigeria on September 12, 2018. Another was the lone goal in Liberiaâ€™s competitive 1-0 win over Chad at the Samuel Kanyon Doe Sports Complex on October 9, 2019.
Shermanâ€™s football career may have taken him down a windy path where he played on three continents and in six countries, but he has maintained his goal scoring and now ranks among the best strikers in the country. Yet, his thirst remains for more improvement and bigger stages. Only time will tell how far he goes.
Featured photo by T. Kla Wesley, Jr.