The Football governing body has suspended Sierra Leone over claims of government interference.
FIFA conveyed this decision after it sent a letter to the country’s Minister of Sports expressing ‘grave concern’ about the removal of the football association president, Isha Johansen and the association’s General Secretary, Christopher Kamara.
In a statement, FIFA said: ‘The Bureau of the FIFA Council decided today to suspend the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) with immediate effect due to government interference.’
The ban comes at a crucial time as Sierra Leone is one week away from their African Cup of Nations qualifier against Ghana on October 11.
The ban brings with it the loss of all membership rights so the team will no longer be able to participate in international competitions until the ban is lifted.
FIFA says it will only lift the suspension if ‘the SLFA and its recognised leadership… have confirmed to FIFA that the SLFA administration, premises, accounts and communication channels are under their control once again.’
‘It’s a sad day for Sierra Leone football and for the Sierra Leone people,’ Isha Johanssen, President of Sierra Leone Football said.
Johansen is the only female football president in Africa and one of only two women to have ever held the role as president of a football association.
The 53-year-old was elected as her football association’s president in 2013 but her reign has been difficult.
Last year, she was charged with abuse of office and misuse of public funds by Sierra Leone’s Anti-Corruption Commission — charges which she denies and says are politically motivated.
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Johansen and her executive committee members were also stopped from running the country’s football affairs until their legitimacy to govern had been proved.
Commenting on how accusations and the struggle for legitimacy has affected are, she said in an interview that;
‘It’s difficult, it’s challenging, but I’m very up for the task. It’s been particularly difficult for my family, especially for my elderly parents.’
‘There have been some positives that I’m proud of in our Sierra Leone football development. Despite all the odds, the challenges — the Ebola, the infighting, the political interference — all of these have helped strengthen our cause and strengthen my resolve.’