More than a thousand football loving fans from all walks of life, last Friday trooped to the Kenema City town field to welcome the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) president, Madam Isha Johansen and her entourage as they seek to unite the football family and raise the game in Sierra Leone.
Despite being the first official visit to the eastern regional headquarters of the FA President since she took up office on August 3, 2013, she and her entourage received a rosy welcome from people who were once described as a strong opposition to the FA President.
Upon arrival in Kenema, the FA President and her entourage paid courtesy calls to AIG Karrow Kamara, Mayor J.S Keifalla, PC Amara Bonya Vangahun and the Resident Minister, Maya Moiwo Kaikai before heading to the town field where several groups of the football family patiently wait to welcome her and her entourage.
Addressing the enthusiastic gathering, the FA President said she was pleased with the way the football family in Kenema received her. She described her visit as a ‘real home coming’ while lamenting the fact that she could have been in Kenema five years back when she lost one of her best players at FC Johansen, Issa ‘Madam’ Koroma who is a son of Kenema but she couldn’t because the player’s family decided to do the burial in Freetown.
“After I took over as FA President, I could have come here but there were too many bottlenecks that I couldn’t come. Again, I should have been here in August last year but the ebola situation at that time did not permit me and thank God today I’m here and I thank you for your very good reception,” Madam Johansen said.
The FA President appealed for tranquility in the football family so that she could be in the right frame of mind to bring development to the country. She said that peace and success very often comes at a price; “sometimes at a very high price. Today, I have friends and admirers helping me to break barriers, helping me to correct my mistakes and most importantly helping me to bring us all together as one football family with one objective-to be champions and leaders”.
She announced that the Sierra Leone National ‘A’ Team would be playing a friendly match with Tanzania in March while the Under 23 is bracing up for the Olympic qualifiers in April against their Guinea Bissau counterpart.
“We will also be doing the National Youth League and the Female League this year. Both have been sponsored by FIFA and will commence after the rescinding of the Public Health Emergency. In August this year, we will also be taking our Under 15s to Sweden to take part in the Gothea Cup; a platform we want to use in the building of our Under 17s for future assignment,” she told her audience.
Earlier in her welcome address, the KDFA Chairperson, Madam Rugiatu Sesay-Koroma said the football family in Kenema wholeheartedly appreciated the FA President’s visit; hoping that it will be a turning point in “the history of disunity in the football family”.
“As the district FA chairperson, I must say on behalf of all, that our impasse is over and we are now looking forward to progress that is characterized by genuine reconciliation for a cohesive and dedicated FA that will promote football. This is what we all vowed to achieve and we must strive hard to achieve it,” Madam Sesay-Koroma said.
Several speakers from coaches, referees, female and youth football associations made salient contributions; raising issues that are affecting them and the game in Kenema and also requested for assistance in capacity building programs.
Responding the FA President promised that she would do all in her ability to help each and every region raise the game in their respective corners so that all will be involved in the development of the game.
The occasion was climaxed with the distribution of 10 match balls and 10 grassroots balls to each of the three districts (Kenema, Kailahun and Kono) in the eastern region of Sierra Leone.