The Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) saga has now dragged on for a continuous period of close to five years. The protracted impasse came about as a result of major differences between Ms Isha Johansen, the President of SLFA and her team on the one hand and the majority Football Stakeholders of clubs affiliated to SLFA on the other hand, with regard to the way and manner that football should be organised and run in Sierra Leone.
Both sides have taken entrenched positions, resulting to a very acrimonious relationship, essentially between Ms Isha Johansen and the General Secretary of the Football Association, Mr. Chris Kamara and the majority Football Stakeholders. All efforts to achieve a resolution to the matter have proved fruitless and, as a result, domestic football in accordance with the SLFA Constitution of 2012 has been non-existent throughout the afore-mentioned period, a very sad development, especially for the football loving fans of Sierra Leone and the players alike.
Since representatives from the World Football Governing Body, the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) were in Freetown from 4th to 9th November 2018 to help resolve the matter, I have decided to make my own humble contribution as a football enthusiast and someone who was the Team Manager and Head Coach of the country’s national football team, Leone Stars for several years during the 1980s when football was at its best. Indeed, these were the glory days of football in Sierra Leone. In this regard, I have found it necessary to reproduce the copy of a letter I wrote to FIFA dated 20th January 2016 when I was involved in the game as a member of the FIFA/SLAF Working Group, which was set-up by FIFA in order to resolve the SLFA saga. In effect, this is the second time a FIFA delegation has visited Sierra Leone to help normalise the country’s football saga.
I earnestly hope my letter which provides a background to the issues surrounding the intractable impasse, would help throw some light on the difficulties in finding an acceptable settlement to all sides. Going forward, I shall also make some useful comments which I hope would prove helpful.
I feel proud to say that I was the one who put together, coached, managed and developed the national football team, Leone Stars that later won the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Zone 2 tournament in 1993 and went on to qualify for the African Cup of Nations (AFCON) football competition in 1994 and 1996. These were the days of players like Toby, De Cox, Tostao, Lamin, Agina, Gbessay, Kallon, Attouga, Osaio and others. They contributed so much in putting the name of Sierra Leone on the world football stage. I am so proud of them.
20th January 2016
The Acting President
Federation of International Football Association
P.O. Box 8044
Re: FIFA/SLFA Working Group replacement of Mr Sim Turay, Member, Working Group
I write in response to a letter referenced SLFA/OGS/GEN/VOL.XV/004 of 12th October 2015 from the General Secretary, Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) addressed to me and copied to you, among others, concerning the above, and have to state that the reasons outlined by the Executive Committee of the Sierra Leone Football Association to replace me as a member of the FIFA/SLFA Working Group are fabricated and utterly fallacious. In my considered view, they are nothing short of a disingenuous attempt to draw attention away from the machinations of the SLFA Executive in order to ensure their longevity in office, which I justifiably opposed. I must also state quite categorically that the action of the Executive Committee is without legal foundation and is, therefore, unlawful. So as to clarify my position, I shall endeavor to treat the matter step by step, and in so doing, give a full narrative of the events culminating to the Committee’s decision. I shall, first and foremost, deal with the negotiations at Barmoi Hotel.
As you are aware, the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) despatched two of its representatives, Messrs Primo Corvaro and Kwesi Nyantakyi to Sierra Leone sometime in August last year to help resolve the football impasse between the Executive of the Sierra Leone Football Association and the Football Stakeholders. This led to the negotiations at Barmoi Hotel in Freetown, which got underway on Friday 28th August 2015.
Once the negotiations at Barmoi Hotel started, it soon became clear that the deliberations were going to be difficult because of the intense animosity between senior officials of the Sierra Leone Football Association and the Football Stakeholders, comprising the majority of the clubs in the Association. Both parties had taken entrenched positions over a long period of time to the extent that personal grievances, which had nothing to do with the management of football became serious issues of contention. For instance, the President of SLFA, Mrs. Isha Johansen and the General Secretary, Mr Chris Kamara were not on speaking terms with Alhaji Alim Sesay, the key player on the side representing the Football Stakeholders. The bitterness and animosity between these two parties had developed to so much hate for each other, it proved to be the main stumbling block to the success of the negotiations.
The President and the General Secretary accused certain senior officials of the Football Stakeholders group of being involved in match-fixing at the international level, especially in matches involving the national team, Leone Stars. On the other hand, Alhaji Alim Sesay and senior officials of the Football Stakeholders levelled accusations of managerial incompetence and gross manipulations of SLFA matters, and a leadership style that was dictatorial and perniciously uncompromising against the President and the General Secretary. So right from the outset, no one was under the illusion that the negotiations were going to be easy.
In any event, as the negotiations progressed at a slow pace, it became apparent to the representatives of the Federation of International Football Association, Messrs Primo Corvaro and Kwesi Nyantakyi, and officials of SLFA and their representatives in the Working Group that members representing the Football Stakeholders group were constantly on the phone, receiving what some of us rightly concluded were instructions from someone unknown. As we were getting nowhere, I suggested to the FIFA representatives that we should hold urgent discussions with Alhaji Sesay. Fortunately, Mr. Nyantakyi knew Alhaji Sesay very well, so he promptly agreed. I called Alhaji Sesay over my mobile and he was very receptive and wanted to come to the hotel rightway. However, an informal meeting was arranged with Alhaji Sesay the following day. But once Mrs Johansen was informed about the meeting, she bitterly opposed it, remarking she would not have anything to do with Alhaji Sesay under any circumstance.
It was now Saturday 29thAugust 2015, the second day of the negotiations. Word then came over the phone and the General Secretary informed us there was a demonstration outside the premises of the SLFA Secretariat at Kingtom. The crowd was hostile and the Secretariat had been barricaded. Banners were displayed, demanding the resignation of Mrs Johansen and her team. Messrs Corvaro and Nyantakyi were visibly shaken. As a result, the negotiations came to an abrupt end, especially as we learnt the demonstrators were going to head for Barmoi Hotel next. Both Messrs Corvaro and Nyantakyi were forced to reschedule their return flights as early as possible. The negotiations were now on the verge of complete collapse.
Mrs Johansen arrived at the hotel later that day and supplied us with her own version of events. The SLFA Secretariat remained barricaded and the keys to the premises had been handed over to the police. I explained to the FIFA representatives and the President, Vice-President and General Secretary of SLFA that we could not afford to fail. We had to talk to Alhaji Sesay and hold serious discussions with him whether we liked it or not, as it was the most plausible thing to do under the prevailing circumstance.
Indeed, some of the demonstrators did come to Barmoi Hotel later that afternoon. But the main gates had been firmly locked so they could not gain access to the hotel premises. The demonstrators later dispersed peacefully without incident. I eventually succeeded in getting Alhaji Sesay to call off the demonstrations, emphasising to him that we should all have respect for the rule of law. I also succeeded in getting him to instruct the Police Local Unit Commander (LUC) to return the keys back to the SLFA Secretariat and help disperse the demonstrators. The demonstrators eventually dispersed sometime in the afternoon and the LUC returned the keys back to SLFA at Barmoi Hotel later the same day.
Once things returned back to normal, I was able to persuade Messrs Corvaro and Nyantakyi to stay on and see the negotiations through, which they did. I also convinced all concerned that we should hold serious discussions with Alhaji Sesay without and further delay. Mrs Johansen still would not have anything to do with it, try as we may. I am constrained to point out that the stance taken by Mrs Johansen with regard to holding discussions with Alhaji Sesay was implacable and unwarranted. Although the Vice-President, Mr Brima Mazolla Kamara was in favour of the idea, the General Secretary, Mr Chris Kamara was not happy about the arrangement. However, we finally got a delegation comprising the FIFA representative, Mr. Nyantakyi, the SLFA Vice-President, Mr Brima Mazolla Kamara and myself to travel to Tower Hill where we held discussions with Alhaji Sesay and three of his colleagues. Mrs Johansen refused to attend but gave her blessing. I must stress that had the arrangement gone the way of Mrs Johansen and Mr. Chris Kamara, the negotiations would have certainly failed.
The discussions with Alhaji Sesay and his team were very cordial and fruitful. At some point, I was unanimously offered the chairmanship of the Working Group by all sides, including the FIFA representatives. However, I respectfully declined the offer, explaining I was deeply engaged in efforts to make the National Drug Law Enforcement Agency of which I am Executive Director operational. It was a hard decision, but one which everyone eventually agreed I had to make. Several names were then put forward for the position of Chairman. Dr. Sheku Conteh, Executive Secretary, Office of the Ombudsman was eventually appointed and later confirmed as Chairman of the Working Group. His confirmation was unanimous.
With regard to the position of Secretary to the Working Group, Mr Chris Kamara was again vehemently turned down by the Football Stakeholders. He was regarded, among other things, as being an accomplished manipulator and a compulsive liar, someone with the potential to tear the Football Association apart and, therefore, not suitable for the position of Secretary to the Working Group. Future events were to later prove these allegations right, although it has to be appreciated that the General Secretary could have been carrying out the instructions of the SLFA Executive Committee. Anyhow, it was unanimously resolved that his deputy or someone else in the SLFA Secretariat is appointed Secretary to the Working Group.
On Sunday August 30th 2015, the final day of the negotiations, the seven positions in the Working Group were once more confirmed by all sides involved in the negotiations, including the FIFA representatives. The terms of reference of the Group were also unanimously agreed. A final resolution was then taken, which was unanimously carried for SLFA to communicate in writing to all members of the Working Group within a week, informing them to commence work thereafter. The Working Group was given up to two months to complete its work, that is, by the end of October 2015 at the outside. The SLFA Congress should then meet by the end of November or in early December 2015. Disappointingly, the Executive Committee was only able to communicate to members of the Working Group on 5th October 2015, inviting them to a meeting at the SLFA Secretariat on Thursday 8th October 2015.
However, prior to the aforesaid meeting at the SLFA Secretariat, a meeting was summoned at State House on 26th September 2015, to which some senior officials of SLFA, Mr. Alhaji Sesay and myself were invited. The President of SLFA, Mrs Johansen was unavoidably absent, so the Vice-President Mr. Brima Mazolla Kamara represented her. The SLFA General Secretary, Mr. Chris Kamara was also present at the meeting, which was chaired by His Excellency the President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma in his capacity as President of the National Sports Council of Sierra Leone. The purpose of the meeting was to up-date the President on developments, following the Barmoi Agreement.
Two critical issues came up at the above meeting, impinging on the Barmoi Agreement:
- The General Secretary, Mr Chris Kamara informed the meeting that he was still awaiting an official letter from FIFA authorising the SLFA Working Group to commence its work.
- Mr Chris Kamara also explained that he was awaiting another official letter from FIFA confirming the names of members of the Working Group.
The above remarks made by Mr Chris Kamara were most shocking as these issues formed the very pillars of the Barmoi Agreement, which were unanimously endorsed by all parties to the Agreement, namely, SLFA, the Football Stakeholders, and the FIFA representatives. That Mr. Chris Kamara could be so deceitful, even to His Excellency the President, was a clear indication of how determined he was in pursuit of his machinations. Over and above all, he demonstrated his total disrespect for His Excellency the President of Sierra Leone. Of course, I rejected Mr Chris Kamara’s remarks and explained to the meeting that his statements were fallacious and a serious breach of the Barmoi Agreement. In any event, Mr Chris Kamara promised he would communicate in writing to all members of the Working Group as early as possible.
At the meeting at the SLFA Secretariat, Kingtom on Thursday 8th October 2015, several Working Group members expressed concern over the fact that they did not receive any correspondence from the SLFA Executive Committee regarding the meeting, and were only informed by colleagues over the phone within 24 hours or so of the meeting. It was at this juncture that the SLFA General Secretary, Mr. Chris Kamara raised the issue of the Secretary to the Working Group and put himself forward for the position. Working Group members present, including myself strongly objected to the motion on the grounds that the issue of the Secretary to the Working Group had been finalised at Barmoi to the effect that Mr. Chris Kamara was not a suitable person to hold the position and that someone else in the SLFA Secretariat should be appointed as Secretary. However, Mr. Chris Kamara became very adamant, insisting the motion to appoint him as Secretary to the Working Group should be accepted, even though the Chairman overruled the motion. It was quite apparent Mr. Chris Kamara was deliberately frustrating and undermining the work of the Working Group.
An altogether disturbing dimension to the matter is that both the SLFA Vice-President and the General Secretary discussed with me the possibility of bribing delegates and potential delegates in order to win their votes at the forthcoming Congress. This is a new and dangerous development and a very serious indictment which should receive the unqualified and urgent attention of FIFA, especially considering the high profile bribery scandal that has now so seriously engulfed FIFA, and which is being treated as a criminal matter. The two cases are no different as the element of intent on the part of the SLFA Vice-President and the General Secretary to engage in bribery is present. So did I, once again, not do the right thing by registering my objection so as to forestall a possible SLFA bribery scandal?
It is of importance to point out that people like us may have come into the SLFA saga as an active player rather late. All the same, I had a strong conviction that Mrs Johansen and her team should be given every chance to turn the game around. In fact, Mr. Corvaro even expressed caution over my enthusiasm for the Football Stakeholders to allow Mrs Johansen, in particular, the time and space to organise and run football in Sierra Leone. But as it turned out, events during and after the Barmoi Agreement, which was a resounding success, proved us disappointingly wrong. What has since become manifestly clear is that the media silence so craftily orchestrated by the SLFA Executive on members of the Working Group for the duration of the Barmoi negotiations was a calculated attempt of deceit designed to allow officials of the SLFA Executive, especially the General Secretary, the time and space to fabricate and subsequently manipulate what went on at Barmoi.
There is no doubt in my mind that the case now being presented by the SLFA Executive with regard to the Barmoi Agreement is woven in a spiderweb of deceit and disingenuously crafted so as to introduce a fallacious dimension to the agreement. For this purpose, the SLFA Executive desperately needed my support and endorsement. But sadly, the officials in the Executive miscalculated my moral judgment as I openly objected to their dishonest design and was never going to allow myself to be dragged into their machinations. So the next move of the Executive Committee was a clear revelation of how badly the SLFA officials took my stance – I was to be replaced as a member of the Working Group, a decision borne out of sheer frustration and the deep-seated fear of losing their precious SLFA mantle.
What is now fundamental to my case is that the integrity of the Sierra Leone Football Association Executive has been rendered highly questionable. In very simple language, the SLFA Executive has hatched a surreptitious plan to conduct itself immorally and without due regard for the high standard of good ethics which such a body is expected to uphold in accordance with Article 7 of the SLFA Constitution, 2012. This being the case, has the SLFA Executive not lost its credibility and is transforming itself into a scandalous institution? So please, let us as decent Sierra Leoneans protect our integrity in the world of football. We may be doing badly in the organisation of domestic football and in international competitions, but all the same, our dignity does matter a lot.
Considering the foregoing, it beggers belief the SLFA Executive Committee has replaced me as a member of the Working Group. In this regard, it should be borne in mind that the original list of members in the Working Group is the cornerstone of the Barmoi Agreement and is, therefore, irrevocable, except by unanimity. So its inviolability must be judiciously respected by all parties to the agreement. Of course, as I have earlier categorically pointed out, the aforesaid action of the SLFA Executive Committee is without legal foundation and is, therefore, unlawful. For the purpose of clarity, I shall endeavour to elaborate on my position further. In this regard, I shall also highlight some aspects associated with the game itself, including its infrastructure, especially in Freetown where everything seems to be concentrated.
Firstly, the Barmoi Agreement is a legal document and should, therefore, be judiciously respected by all sides to the agreement, namely, FIFA, SLFA, and the Football Stakeholders. This means that any change or alteration to any clause or portion in the agreement has to be done by unanimity. Secondly, no one party can act on its own volition to change or alter any clause or portion in the agreement as that party simply does not have the legal prerogative to do so. Thirdly, by acting on its own volition and without the consent or approval of both FIFA and the Football Stakeholders, the SLFA Executive Committee has seriously breached the Barmoi Agreement. Fourthly, by abrogating the Barmoi Agreement in the manner that it did, the action of the SLFA Executive Committee is ultra vires and, therefore, null and void. Finally, the action taken by the SLFA Executive Committee to replace me as a member of the Working Group is without legal foundation and is, therefore, unlawful and shall not be allowed to avail.
I wish to point out that there are people of stature and integrity in the Working Group with a sound knowledge of the game, who are quite capable of ensuring the Group successfully delivers on its terms of reference in the shortest possible time. This is all the more reason why the SLFA Executive should not be allowed to impede the task of the Working Group, which presently seems to be the case. In this regard, it is rather unfortunate the SLFA Executive is callously misleading an unsuspecting FIFA about the true developments on the ground by presenting a fallacious picture of events following the successful conclusion of the Barmoi negotiations.
It is appreciated the Working Group may have submitted an excessive budget for the conduct of its identification and verification exercise for delegates, which I find difficult to comment on as I was unavoidably not involved in the preparation of the budget. However, it is now high time a realistic budget was determined so the Working Group could commence its task in earnest. In this regard, it is my considered view the SLFA Executive may use the budget issue to frustrate and undermine the task of the Working Group, thereby unjustifiably ensuring the longevity in office of the Executive Committee for an indefinite period of time. But this should not be allowed to happen, not least, for the sake of equity in order to guarantee the continuity of the game without any further hinderance. So in the unlikely event of the relevant funds not being available from FIFA, then in the interest of the people of this country, it is not only right and proper for the government to provide such funds but, it becomes a duty for government to do so.
The fact of the matter is that the SLFA Executive is doing everything it could to cover-up its incompetence to successfully organise and run both domestic and international football, including friendlies involving the national and youth teams, and clubs of other national football associations, which has led us to the unacceptable situation in which we find ourselves today. It is an indisputable fact that competitive domestic football in the manner and form that we all know it, the ebola crisis apart, has been non-existent in Sierra Leone for the past 19 months, that is, throughout the entire period that the present SLFA Executive has been in office. Similarly, international football has also been very badly managed over the same period of time to the extent that the country’s world FIFA ranking has plummeted 71 places, that is, from 50 to 121 since Mrs Johansen’s regime took over. The country’s African CAF ranking has also plummeted 31 places, that is, from 7 to 38, again since Mrs Johansen’s regime took over.
Moreover, the SLFA Executive has also woefully failed to promote any form of cordial working relationship with the body charged with the overall organisation and control of sports in Sierra Leone. It is clear for all to see that the Sierra Leone Football Association under the leadership of the present Executive has been unable to promote the game of football throughout the territory of Sierra Leone in accordance with Article 2 of the SLFA Constitution, 2012. Thus, the SLFA is a failed institution which has lost its way and is, therefore, not fit for purpose.
I wish to state that the Chairman and the entire membership of the Working Group, with the exception of one member, have expressed their displeasure over the conduct and attitude of the SLFA Executive towards the Working Group. In particular, they strongly object to the SLFA Executive conducting the election of delegates upcountry, which they view as improper and inappropriate at this material period, considering the terms of reference of the Working Group. They also strongly suspect that the SLFA officials who have been conducting the exercise are actually engaged in the practice of bribing upcountry delegates and potential delegates in order to win their votes at the next Congress. So far, there have been serious civil disturbances in three Districts, namely, Moyamba, Bo and Bonthe, involving the use of violence as SLFA officials went out of their way to forcefully attempt to conduct the election of delegates against the wishes of the District Football Associations.
At this juncture, it is essential to question why the SLFA Executive is so adamant and determined to conduct the election of delegates in various District Associations upcountry, but not the Western area, even though its officials have been strongly advised by His Excellency the President of Sierra Leone, Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma, in his capacity as the President of the National Sports Council of Sierra Leone that he considers it inappropriate for them to do so for reasons already explained. In addition, the President also holds the view the election exercise is disturbing the peace, and may lead to very serious social and security problems upcountry.
It is of significance to point out that public opinion is very strongly against the SLFA Executive conducting the election of delegates upcountry as there is a general consensus the SLFA Executive is desperately trying to win the votes of upcountry delegates and potential delegates prior to the forthcoming Congress. Public opinion is also overwhelmingly against the continuation in office of the current SLFA Executive, as the officials are regarded as unpatriotic and having no interest in the resumption of competitive domestic football. So it is crucial for FIFA to reappraise its position with regard to the growth and development of football in Sierra Leone, which is presently at its lowest ebb.
Concern is now being raised by the general public that since the present SLFA Executive took office on 3rd August 2013, the accounts of the Sierra Leone Football Association have still not been audited. Article 66 of the SLFA Constitution, 2012, stipulates that the financial period of the Association is from 1st January to 31st December, during which period the revenue and expenses of SLFA should be properly managed and balanced to enable the Ordinary Congress approve the financial statement, budget and activity report of the SLFA President.
In accordance with Article 26 of the SLFA Constitution, 2012, it is the responsibility of the SLFA Executive to fix the place and date for the Ordinary Congress in the 2nd quarter of the following year. However, the Ordinary Congress has never been able to perform its financial role since Mrs Johansen and her team took office. As a result, the SLFA accounts have not been audited by independent auditors as stipulated in Article 69 of the aforesaid Constitution. Thus, in order to guarantee transparency and accountability in the present SLFA administration, it is crucial for the Working Group to commence its task without any further delay so that the Ordinary Congress could be convened.
It is an undeniable fact that during the first few months of the present administration, before competitive domestic football finally fell apart, attendances at matches, including international matches at the Siaka Stevens Stadium, the country’s only national stadium located in the capital, had dropped by around 80%. This situation subsequently got worse as people were simply disillusioned with the direction that football was going in the country and consciously decided not to be part of the game.
As for the stadium’s playing surface, it is, in my considered view, hardly what one would term a decent or acceptable playing surface as the pitch is as hard as concrete because Stadium organisers have allowed the main bowl to be used as a venue for musical shows, religious revivals, etc. And during the rainy season, there are potholes everywhere with several portions of the pitch becoming nothing short of a perfect field ready for the cultivation of rice or something. Sadly, the once beautiful pitch has been transformed into a brown site awaiting the arrival of construction workers.
The stadium’s toilet facilities are quite another matter. They have been broken down for ages and left abandoned. As a result, the area around the modestly constructed presidential pavilion has become a collection point for human faeces. People urinate everywhere and the pavilion stinks to the high heavens. And those who should be doing something about it, do not even blink an eye lid. What a shame!
The stony surfaces of the Attouga Stadium and the Parade Grounds also located in the capital, clearly demonstrate the ineptitude of the SLFA Executive in handling the promotion of football in Sierra Leone. Both pitches have absolutely nothing of the modern facilities associated with today’s stadium and look more like construction sites than anything else. One wonders just how a decision was ever made to organise competitive domestic league football matches at whatever level on such surfaces. Surely, the SLFA Executive can do a lot better.
The so called football complex at Kingtom, the very heart of everything that has to do with football in the country, is in a very sad state and urgently needs some serious doing-up. I was shocked the last time I went there. Rightly or wrongly, the present state of affairs with regard to the organisation and promotion of football in the country would undoubtedly turn out to be Mrs Johansen’s legacy.
Considering what I have adduced so far, there is sufficient reason to come to the conclusion that the SLFA Executive has abysmally failed in its primary role of ensuring the growth and development of football in Sierra Leone. Thus, we should all now come to the realisation that the current era of SLFA is the worst in the history of football in Sierra Leone and that the situation is simply unsustainable. Once again, in plain and simple language, the Executive of the Sierra Leone Football Association is the problem to the solution of the football impasse in Sierra Leone and the resultant catastrophic demise of the game, and not the solution to the problem.
In the interest of the game and the football loving people of this country, I am appealing to FIFA to help bring this terrible saga to an end by ensuring that the Working Group receives the unflinching support of the world football governing body, which so laudably contributed to its formation in the first place. I am also imploring FIFA to bring the SLFA Executive to notice that the Working Group should in no way, manner or form be impeded by the actions of the SLFA Executive Committee from carrying out its legitimate task as stated in its terms of reference, which in essence is to identify and verify the 47 delegates for the forthcoming SLFA Congress.
It is my considered view that the present impasse which has dragged on for over 19 months and resulted in the non-organisation of competitive domestic football in the country for as many months could not be allowed to happen anywhere else in the world. For instance, considering the social, economic and political ramifications of the game, it is unthinkable this situation could develop in say England, France, Germany, Argentina or Brazil, to give a few examples. The world football governing body, therefore, has a defining role to play in the matter. In this regard, may I humbly submit that FIFA has a moral responsibility to ensure the on-going unpleasant and unwarranted football saga, which has blighted the landscape of the beautiful gave in Sierra Leone for so long is brought to an end as a matter of urgency.
So the key questions which I am now compelled to ask are very simple: Firstly, why has FIFA allowed the current situation to drag on for so long without a definitive resolution to the matter? Secondly, why should the SLFA Executive, which is the main cause of the problem from all the available evidence still continue to enjoy the support of FIFA to the detriment of the game? Thirdly, why should the football loving people of this country pay the price for the incompetence and unwarranted intransigence of the SLFA Executive? Surely, the Executive of the Sierra Leone Football Association is not sacrosanct and should, therefore, be held responsible and accountable for its conduct and performance.
It is an undeniable fact that owing to the non-existence of domestic football in this country for over 19 months, the ebola crisis apart, our young talented players have been denied the chance of enjoying the beautiful game. They have also been deprived of the opportunity of playing for the country’s national team plus the youth teams, and expressing their talents abroad, something every young player dreams of. For many, it is a glorious opportunity to come out of the poverty trap and benefit themselves and their parents and relatives. Moreover, the football loving people of this country have been unfairly deprived of the social and entertainment values of the game by a handful of incompetent and selfish SLFA officials who are determined to maintain the present status quo. But why should these officials so callously stifle the growth and development of football in Sierra Leone for so long simply because of their self-parochial interests?
No doubt, an incompetent and intransigent SLFA Executive, which is the main cause for the demise of football in Sierra Leone is a cross the people of this country no longer wish to bear. The citizens of Sierra Leone have made their voices heard and now wish to see the back of Mrs Johansen and her team. The President of Sierra Leone has also endured more than enough disrespect from certain officials of the SLFA Executive, especially the President and the General Secretary. Besides, the President has a constitutional role to respect the hopes, wishes and aspirations of our people and ensure that the football saga does not spiral out of control, thereby affecting the peace and stability of the country.
With all due respect, FIFA too has a responsibility to take cognisance of the President’s legitimate role and help bring the Executive of the Sierra Leone Football Association to books. After all, FIFA has the experience and mechanisms in place to effectively handle situations of this nature. Moreover, there is the Sierra Leone Football Association Constitution, 2012, which the SLFA Executive has treated with contempt just because they believe FIFA is always there to protect them. This illusion has to be put to bed once and for all.
May I, therefore, submit with the abundance of respect that the role of the SLFA Executive has become untenable, so the world football governing body should now consider taking the decisive step of imposing a deadline of around 9 (nine) weeks for the putting in place of a SLFA Congress by the Working Group and ensuring the 7-man team has the necessary capacity to do so.
In conclusion, may I please state my final comments as without them this letter would be incomplete. No doubt, Mrs. Johansen may have the commitment to organise and run football in Sierra Leone to the delight of all. But the problem, in my view, is that her ability and managerial approach based on consensus are highly suspect. The much bigger problem, however, is that she is surrounded by the wrong people who have been the main cause for the failure of her administration.
Over and above all, Mrs Johansen and her team are facing strong opposition from the majority Football Stakeholders, who very much want to see the back of the SLFA President and her team. As a result, Mrs. Johansen would find it practically impossible to revive football at the domestic level, and at the international level, success would continue to elude her to the disappointment and frustration of the majority of the football loving fans of this country. As for the unlawful replacement of myself as a member of the Working Group, the decision has achieved nothing for Mrs Johansen and her Executive Committee, except further public distrust and the general belief that the Sierra Leone Football Association has to go.
The current situation has benefited no one, except this small clique of officials who have from the outset never been interested in adopting a holistic approach to promote the game of football in the country, but rather favoured to ostracise the majority Football Stakeholders. It is sad I have to criticise Mrs Johansen the way I have done because I was one of her great admirers. I hope she understands my present position. I hope too Mrs. Johansen understands that I am only being pragmatic and true to myself. I do wish her luck and good fortune.
Lieutenant Colonel (Rtd) Sim Turay
Member, FIFA/SLFA Working Group
The Acting Secretary General, Federation of International Football Association
Mr Primo Corvaro, Federation of International Football Association
Mr Kwesi Nyantakyi, President, Ghana Football Association
The President of the National Sports Council of Sierra Leone
The Chairman of the National Sports Council of Sierra Leone
The Secretary to the President, State House
The Director of Sports, Secretary to the National Sports Council of Sierra Leone
The Chairman, Parliamentary Sports Committee
The Chairman, FIFA/SLFA Working Group
All members, FIFA/SLFA Working Group
It is my considered view that Ms Isha Johansen and her team have violated several key provisions of the SLAF Constitution 2012 since they took over the running of football in Sierra Leone on 3rd August 2013. For instance, it is the responsibility of the SLAF Executive to ensure the accounts of SLAF and their stewardship are placed before the Ordinary Congress every year in accordance with the SLAF Constitution of 2012. The fact of the matter is that the Ordinary Congress has never been able to perform its financial role since Ms Jonansen took office. Thus, the SLAF accounts have never been audited by independent auditors as stipulated in Article 69 of the SLAF Constitution of 2012.
The ACC’s intervention in the SLFA saga is lawful and constitutional, and, therefore, right and proper. FIFA has no jurisdiction in the matter as the laws of Sierra Leone take precedence. No doubt, the public fully support the stance taken by the ACC. In this regard, the government must take a strong position in support of the ACC and make it abundantly clear to FIFA that they oppose the ban. The matter, I believe, borders on state security, as a result of its protracted nature and, therefore, has the potential to create social instability.
Needless to say, the majority Football Stakeholders are bitterly against Ms Johansen and Mr. Chris Kamara because of Ms Johansen’s leadership style and, perhaps, lack of knowledge in running the game. In essence, the two have miserably failed to manage and run football in the country. Public consensus is that for the good of the game, both Ms Isha Johansen and Mr. Chris Kamara must go, and the earlier, the better.
Recently, a key Football Stakeholder involved with one of the football clubs upcountry revealed on AYV television during question time that Ms Isha Johansen, the SLAF President was involved in an arrangement with senior officials of the majority Football Stakeholders to defraud SLAF of monies sent by FIFA on a yearly basis for the development of football in Sierra Leone. According to him, it was an arrangement agreed to by all of them, including Mr. Paul Kamara who was the Minister of Sports at the time and other key figures in football. However, as it turned out, Ms Johansen thought twice about the arrangement which was, of course, criminal and unlawful. She, therefore, decided in her own best interest to pull out of the deal. According to this Football Stakeholder official, the Majority Football Stakeholders took offence and unanimously agreed to undermine the administration of Ms Johansen. I my considered view, the revelation seems to carry a great deal of credibility.
Perhaps, this could be the reason that brought about the match-fixing allegations as some senior club officials in various clubs whose players were in the national team, Leone Stars encouraged their players to fix matches for monetary reward, which they would themselves automatically benefit from. But this is only a wild speculation as all those involved in the arrangement, including Ms Johansen and Chris Kamara have decided to keep the secret arrangement close to their chest.
So in my considered view, the bottom line of the SLAF saga over the years hinges on the refusal of Ms Isha Johansen to play ball. But considering that she has fallen victim to the saga and all the unpleasant things that have been said about her, I believe that for the progress and development of football in Sierra Leone, she should gracefully bow out of the game, together with the General Secretary, Chris Kamara. I also believe that her intentions to manage and run football in Sierra Leone were very genuine. But somehow, everything went disastrously wrong. However, now that I, perhaps, seem to know the underlying reason for her failure in managing and running the game, I hope she accepts my judgment was made based on the information available to me.
Retired Lt. Colonel Sim Turay, HCBS, BA Double Honours, MA, LLM, (Prospective PhD student)