Sierra Leone football has been stuck in a time warp, mainly due to a moribund leadership that increasingly appears to be out of touch with reality. Since Isha Johansen was catapulted to head the Sierra Leone Football Association two years ago, football in the country has had a big setback and even the leagues were suspended before the Ebola struck.
Rampant corruption, maladministration and lack of accountability have negatively impacted on the development of football in the country. Football has turned into a billion dollar industry across the world but Sierra Leone remains at the periphery of this lucrative system. It is believed that many factors such as the predatory and globalised nature of major European leagues, Sierra Leone’s problem stem from systematic and institutionalized problems with its football administration structures.
Isha came into the SLFA after certain individuals put her up against Rodney Michael that she was supporting. Many of the clubs officials never wanted her because they knew from the beginning that she will never succumb to these mal-administrators when it comes to FIFA funds.
In the past, the FIFA funds has been a source of income for many of the officials in football. So with Isha, they knew she will never agreed to sharing that funds meant for the development of the game. They preferred Rodney Michael who they thought they might have a way with. But one man who had a different thought of ISHA was Alhaji Alim Sesay (Awoko), who was optimistic that he will be able to get what he wants from this lady. He supported her and she won the election controversially and became the new FA boss.
The Minister of Sports and the owner of Anti Drugs FC were happy as they wanted to control Isha and the FA, but alas, it was not to be the case and there comes the problem where the Minister of Sports and the owner of Anti Drugs fell out with madam.
Today Isha is not in their goods books and they want her out. Majority of the stake holders who never wanted her had the support of these two gentlemen to date.
The populace was in support with the stake holders until they proved to be irresponsible with lack of vision when they allowed Alhaji Alim Sesay to join them and make him their interim chairman. This was so disgusting to the public that they knew that the stake holders lack integrity and respect and that the reason why they wanted Isha out had nothing to do with football but the FIFA funds coming in.
Those who know Isha in the past will tell you that she is not someone that can be bullied or manipulated, she believes in herself and will always try to act like a man. Financially she is stable and will never join forces with anybody to misuse the FIFA funds.
As for Isha, she too has her own problems of ego, which is affecting her to make solid peace with the stake holders. Last year when was on the TV calling for peace, that I don’t subscribe to. If she wants to make peace after such controversial election, she needs to talk to the stakeholders in a more subtle way through phone calls or personal meetings. But going over the radio or at the TV station saying she is extending olive branch to them doesn’t show respect, and it will not be enough to bridge the gap or end the truce.
Also the General Secretary of the association must have been another person to help in bringing peace to the football family, but Chris Kamara has failed to do it. Going to the radio stations talking and criticizing the stake holders create more problems instead of solving it. Even in so doing he had so many clashes with journalists, which is not good for the FA and the game in general. Chris should have been the arbitrator in this whole episode by bringing both parties together to find a common ground and end the stalemate. He should have done it by moving around talking to them in private until he can get majority of them at the round table with Isha to bring the long awaited peace.
The bane of much of Sierra Leone, and indeed much of the world, the scourge of corruption has not allowed football to escape. Any team travelling to international assignments will invariably return home with tales of suspect refereeing and the difficulties of succeeding abroad. The corruption in our football transcends the field of play.
While corruption in football is a recognized fact in Sierra Leone, poverty in the country and the win-at-all-costs attitude of some of our officials susceptible to bribery and other inducements.
When I recently listened to Alhaji Unisa Alim Sesay speak on one of the local radio stations about all the problems of football in the country, I knew straight away that what he wanted from Isha he failed to get and now he is determine to see the back of her at all cost. This he has failed and will never succeed because Sierra Leoneans are tired of him as all the time he has been in football there is nothing to show for it.
He will support a candidate and when he fails to get his way with that individual, he will then turn against him with the support of his cohorts to kick the person out.
Those of us who have been long enough in organizing and managing football in the country at the highest level know that Awoko, as he is popularly called, has the ability to make and unmake leaders of the SLFA at his whims and caprices, but this time he has failed to get his way because the woman he is fighting never allowed him to get his way in the FA, which gave him the cause to join forces with the stake holders to fight.
Isha is financially stable and can articulate well more than most of stake holders. Moreover, she is the only woman heading an association in the whole world. She has the sympathy and she can walk her way to the top. I am of the opinion that before Sepp Blatter quits the sport, he will push Isha into the top echelons of power which will be a loss to the stake holders and a win for her and the country.
To reminisce a little, Justice Tolla Thompson who has been the best FA president in this country, was embarrassed by the same Alim Sesay because Tolla changed some of the laws which affected Alim Sesay. When FIFA was sending monies through First Foreign Exchange Bureau, owned by Alim Sesay, Tolla knew it was not right and told FIFA to use Sierra Leone Commercial Bank. This decision did not go down well with Alim Sesay who was making money through the exchange rate. Since that time, he started plotting the downfall of Tolla Thompson. He succeeded and Tolla left the game he so loved and never want to talk about football to anyone. He built the office, the Academy, he also got the Bo stadium going. He has been the best of them all using the FIFA funds for its intended purpose.
Alhaji Alim Sesay was instrumental in bringing Nahim Kadi to office as he knew he will always have his way with him. The entire eight years of Nahim Kadi had nothing to show as the FIFA funds was just for them all to share. This was the trend they wanted, but Isha will never do it neither Rodney Michael they were advocating for. Until the likes of Alim Sesay are out of football, the game will never grow as we will continue to languish at the bottom of the football ladder. There are institutions who want to sponsor clubs, but all the clubs are poorly constituted, on management, just one or two individuals representing them and enjoying the benefits that come their way.
For over 30 years, what do these clubs have to show? No offices, they have never organize AGM in their history and even to pay the players is a herculean task. I have been secretary of Old Edwardians and I know what I am talking about when it comes to club management.
Now that football is not playing because of the impasse and the ebol, the club officials are working in their offices whilst the players have to find jobs in the burial teams and other ebola facilities.
It is time for the two groups to come together and end the truce so that football can be what it use to be. Fighting to impeach Isha will not work because there is a big division in the football family, the journalists, the public and the government. Even when it come to politics that FIFA frowns at, they work with the government to for the good of the game.
My advise to all is to allow peace to reign and wait until Isha’s term is over in two years time then they can go to election once and for all. I am appealing to all to see reason to come together and work in the interest of the players so that the game will be played as ebola is coming to an end.
Madam Isha, you must put aside your ego and embrace all the stake holders, talk to them and let the beautiful game commence, but the current situation has made the beautiful game becomes very ugly to the point that all of us are frustrated and really don’t know what to do.
The nation is waiting on you all to put aside your grievances. And if all of you, as usual, allow your personal emotions and ambitions to get the better part of you in your decisions, the nation will never forgive you. We want to see the country emerging as the winner, and not the individual camps that you have carved out for your own convenience.