From a refugee camp to scoring against Messi: How brothers Bernard and Imani Kamungo did it together

Messi Kamungo

FRISCO, Texas – Bernard Kamungo’s journey really starts with his older brother, Imani.

Imani believed in him.

Bernard played soccer for Abilene High School. He was the team’s star after learning the game on the streets of a Tanzanian refugee camp, which his family left for Texas when Bernard was 14.

Four dominant years in the high school ranks made Imani believe his little brother was destined for something more. Bernard didn’t agree: “Back then, I just never saw myself becoming a professional soccer player.”

Despite Bernard’s reluctance, Imani signed him up for an open tryout with North Texas SC, reserve team of FC Dallas: “I believed he could be even better but he couldn’t trust himself. So I pushed him every day.”

Bernard impressed at the tryout and earned a professional contract. Then, he scored a few minutes into his pro debut: “That goal made me cry.”

The next season, he led the team in scoring and was rewarded with an FC Dallas contract. From high school soccer to the big leagues in under two years: “I wanted to make sure he reached the top level but I never knew it would be so fast like this.”

Bernard Kamungo
Imani Kamungo (left) alongside his brother Bernard and FC Dallas president Dan Hunt

2023 is the Year of Bernard. Still just 21, he scored the game-winning goal on his home debut. A few months later, he scored the game-winner on his first start.

The Leagues Cup – an all-new tournament featuring every club from MLS and Liga MX – became the platform for Bernard to show just how far he’d come. A goal and three assists in three games, a more-than-healthy return for a winger.

Bernard and FC Dallas’ next challenge came against the most star-studded team in MLS history. Inter Miami, featuring the likes of Lionel Messi, Sergio Busquets and Jordi Alba—three players who’ve won it all.

Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas was the venue for the Round of 16 clash. Interest, ticket prices and viewership soared to a level never experienced in the club’s history.

It wasn’t too much for Bernard. Or Imani, who accompanied his brother to a game for the first time.

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Bernard (right) and Imani Kamungo arriving at Toyota Stadium

Messi struck first. Compatriot Facundo Quignon leveled for Dallas. Then, it was Bernard’s moment.

Jesús Ferreira found Bernard at the edge of the 18-yard box. As calmly as if he was still on the turf field at Abilene High School, or the dusty streets of the Nyarugusu refugee camp, Bernard side-stepped his first defender before evading the sliding tackle of another. A slight touch with his right foot pushed the ball past the on-rushing goalkeeper before Bernard finished into the empty net.

“The dream continues,” said the commentator.

It wasn’t to be FC Dallas’ night. A scintillating 4-4 draw after 90 minutes led to a penalty shootout where Messi and co. prevailed.

But it was still the Kamungos’ night. Imani had seen his brother – the same brother he pushed to go to an open tryout just three years ago – score against a team headlined by the world’s greatest-ever player.

“I don't even know how to explain it. It’s just one of those moments because I've never scored in front of Imani. That was literally my first time scoring in front of him, and it was against Messi.

“I turned to him and I just told him, ‘that was for you.’ Because he did a lot for me to get to where I am right now. I'm just so happy that he got to see me score.”

Imani believed in him. And now we all do, too.

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Bernard Kamungo and his older brother, Imani, as children in Tanzania