Focus on Isha Johansen – light at the end of tunnel for Sierra Leone’s football

Daniel Koroma

Sierra Leone Telegraph: 18 June 2017

Isha Johansen – is popularly known as the “Iron Lady”; and CAF referred to her as a “Champion”; the former FIFA President hailed her as a “Warrior”, whilst Forbes Magazine named Isha Johansen as one of the twelve women to “watch out for in 2017”.

It is quite astounding and one can only but marvel at how this Sierra Leonean woman through football, has meteorised onto the global stage – wooing Royalty, Heads of States, and high profile international personalities.

Isha has used the power of football to transform the international perception of a country known for doom and gloom, trouble, wars and strife. She has created a whole new dimensional perception of hope and achievement.

International tabloids and media houses have referred to her as a “Trail Blazer” – the new 21st century African Female Icon to watch out for.

In 2013, she was elected Sierra Leone’s First Female FA President, and not too long after became the only female FA president in Africa and the world, until a year later when Sonia Benoit of Turks and Caucus became the second female to head an FA in the world.

Isha has given youngsters in Sierra Leone a real life story of hope through her club FC Johansen that, young people can not only dream, but can also through hard work and determination realize and live the dream.

Take a look at the emerging new stars of Sierra Leone football today: Kwame Quee, George Kweku Davies, Yeami Dunia and others – all sterling products of FC Johansen. Success above the odds – sums up Isha Johansen’s achievements

Isha’s four year reign has been plagued by challenges, humiliation and intimidation – some too embarrassing for this nation to discuss – all in the name of one woman’s bid to restore and sanitize the game of football in Sierra Leone.

Her vow to restore faith in Sierra Leoneans that this country can raise its game, not just on the pitch, but as Patriotic Citizens; her vow to show the world that there is more to our country than what a few corrupt individuals have for decades portrayed our country to be, personifies the remarkable work she is doing.

Let’s take a look at what she has done in four years of her tenure in office; two years of which were dominated by the Ebola crisis; and a year and half of battling against so-called football administrators claiming to have the answers and knowledge as to how to govern football in Sierra Leone.

When Isha took control of the management of Sierra Leone’s game of football in 2013, she was faced with three major challenges, which she has succeed in overcoming:

Administration

She is today fixing our shattered and dilapidated Secretariat into a state of the art Football Secretariat, providing hotels, gymnasium, class rooms for training and education and an administrative building with state of the art equipment that can withstand the test of time; including a befitting technical department with an education officer.

She is also developing Regional Football Associations, renting office space for their use, and also putting modern equipment within their reach.

Technical

Her technical team has trained more than 120 coaches from D to A licenses, certified by CAF, which has never been done before. Sierra Leone is one of the best countries in terms of football development in the sub- region, according to a senior CAF Official who recently paid a visit to Sierra Leone.

Under her leadership, we today have three CAF coaching instructors – men and one woman under the age of 45. Presently, all the coaches managing the national teams are products of her Administration. And they are all CAF A – License holders. They have also achieved the CAF Club Licensing Management qualification, as well as complying with global football management standards.

FA cup competitions have been organised across the country, which have been dormant for over nine years due to lack of sponsorship. Leocem Co Ltd., has been the key sponsor proving over One Billion Leones funding support.

Two coaches have been trained by the English FA and Arsenal Football Club in England. Also, the English FA in partnership with the British Council, held a two week training course for coaches and referees in Sierra Leone, with facilitators drawn from the English Premier League (Hull City and Stoke City Football Clubs).

Marketing and media

I can’t over emphasise how the corporate bodies and international community have changed their perception of Sierra Leone’s football under Isha’s leadership. She has built a brand that can compete with any other FA in Africa – in just four years.

Isha is a member of the CAF Executive Committee; a member of the Member Associations Committee, as well as the Integrity and Ethics Committee of FIFA. She is the Chairman of Female football in CAF, and has won several outstanding international awards.

Under her leadership, SLFA took part in 14 international matches – all played out of Sierra Leone during the Ebola crisis without a cent from the Government, after the former Minister of Sports – Paul Kamara instructed his government to stop funding the national team of Sierra Leone.

The Swedish Ambassador, the American Ambassador, the British High Commissioner and the British Minister for Overseas Development, have all visited the SLFA under Isha’s leadership. Samuel Eto and the FIFA Secretary General – Madam Fatma Samoura, have also established a positive relationship with the SLFA.

Corporate Social Responsibility

SLFA is now well known for its CSR work in communities. Ebola struck and there was pandemonium. One woman decided to use football to fight the deadly disease. It was Isha who proposed the idea to then FIFA President Blatter to mobilise football’s greatest icons like Ronaldo, Drogba, Messi and others to mount a campaign against Ebola. The campaign became known as “FIFA 11 against Ebola”.

It was Isha Johansen who got FIFA to make the very first financial pledge of $50,000 which was handed to President Koroma and in turn to UNICEF. She mounted a campaign to put in place water tanks and other facilities for market women in populated market areas, during the Ebola fraught times. She succeeded in rallying the UK FA and English Premier League to join the “KICK OUT EBOLA” campaign.

In her words – “There are two types of people in this world…. those who make History, and those who are part of making History”. Isha Johansen symbolises both. Football in Sierra Leone will be great again under her leadership.

Isha was the first to donate food and clothing items to the flood victims in 2015 at the Siaka Stevens Stadium – worth over Le 100 million.

SLFA have helped and donated sporting equipment to various sporting associations nationally.

Isha is a friend to the poor and needy. She organises Christmas parties for the less privileged at the SLFA grounds every year. She visits every hospital to greet the first born in December of each year across the capital Freetown.

Her leadership successes are endless

Sierra Leone football today has a proud sponsor – Mafro Sports, providing over $80,000 worth of items every year.

Isha represented the Sierra Leone Government at an international investment forum held in the United Kingdom.

She has spoken at several international forums, such as the Women’s Trust, along with Mrs. Cherie Blair and other leading global female pioneers. She received a special personal invitation by former British Prime Minister David Cameron to deliver an address at the UK Anti-Corruption seminar in 2016 in London.

Under her leadership, the SLFA has never lost an international ‘A’ match in Sierra Leone. And last weekend for the first time saw a sitting President – Ernest Bai Koroma, watched the national team achieving victory at the national stadium in Freetown, and no doubt returned home happy.

Today the SLFA is in partnership with the British High Commission, the British Council, Swedish Embassy, IPC Travels and Tours, Radisson Blu Hotel, Eco Bank, LEOCEM, American Embassy, UNICEF, Chinese Embassy, the Egyptian Embassy, and many others to help improve the state of football in Sierra Leone.

Well done Isha – you have made us – Sierra Leoneans, both at home and abroad proud. This is the true meaning of “change”.

Author

Daniel Koroma – PhD-Manchester, UK

(Photo: Isa Johansen and president Koroma enjoying the national side beating Kenya at the national stadium in Freetown).

6 Comments

  1. The article is shrouded by integrity, forthrightness, patriotism and a display of dexterous disposition in managing limited resources for maximum benefit. These are the qualities which Isha possess, and which have placed her at daggers-drawn with some vicious people whose desire to see her out of the way is implacable. Their fangs and claws are open all the time waiting for the slightest opportunity to devour her alive.

    Isha is doing what generations of men could not do for the country’s Football Association [F.A]. These men were only interested in one thing: diverting funds meant for the Association to their personal use – a phenomenon which woefully pervades officialdom in the entire country.

    The murderous crime of Isha is that she does not only stall the chain of official corruption but breaks it. Thus the wrath of those who epitomise corruption is sustained. And when they see her being hoisted domestically and internationally, parts of them die and go to the opposite side of heaven. The rest will join them in due course.

    We all know that the greatest impediment to Sierra Leone’s advancement is corruption at all levels of government, while the man we have as head of state, Earnest Koroma, cradles and fosters it, cleverly hoodwinking the people as a fighter against corruption in the process.

    I therefore agree with Alusine Fallay that Isha should try her clean hands in running for president. She has acquired enough executive experience to do the job. It is not that difficult for somebody who has a clear vision as to where the country should head. A football manager, for example, hardly ever plays [the exception is where he is a player/manager], he simply tells his players what he wants them to do on the pitch while he watches and coaches them from the sidelines for a good result. It should not be different from the role of a president.

    Indeed it is about time we tried women in positions of leadership, they are more hesitant, the coin has more than two sides to them, and they are less likely to steal not only the hen but the eggs too and start wondering why there is no chicken on our plate. Men have been a total mess.

    So Isha, Ministers Blyden and Christiana Thorpe,I want you to start diverting your attention to taking over from the men who have been a curse to our society.

  2. How does the author explain why Sierra Leone has been continuously dropping in FIFA rankings since Isha Johanson became president of the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA)?

    Today, Sierra Leone is at one of its lowest rankings ever at 113 in the world. Also, Leone Stars may not have lost in Sierra Leone under Johanson, as the author contends. But that is because Sierra Leone has not hosted many international matches under Johanson’s leadership due to Ebola. But how many games have the national team won outside of Sierra Leone?

  3. I would like to thank Isha for all her work bringing Sierra Leone to the spotlight again. Her work is really increasing the faith Sierra Leoneans had before, amid corruption, disease and civil war that have created problems which the country is facing now.

    She is doing everything in her power to make her home a better place to live. As a Sierra Leonean, I am, we all are blessed to have a person like that in the country. Congratulation Sister (If you do not mind). You are making every individual Sierra Leonean at home or diaspora proud of their country.

  4. President? I dont know about that. But all respect to this young and vibrant woman. These are the type of people we want in all spheres of our society. People who can make real differences that can put our country on the map. Respect to you madam. I salute you

  5. I think she is qualified to be our next president. But if she is not interested, let us try another woman for a change, because I believe that Sierra Leonean women are among the best in the world.

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