An impassioned plea by Isha Johansen to the world controlling body FIFA imploring them to lift the suspension on her country to enable Sierra Leone to honour their CAF AFCON 2019 fixture against Ghana in Kumasi this weekend appears to have failed.
FIFA suspended Sierra Leone last week due to government interference in the running of football after Johansen and her Secretary General – Chris Kamara – were kicked out of the Secretariat by the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission.
At the time, Sierra Leone defiantly declared that they would not be dictated to by FIFA and the footballing body needed to respect their sovereignty, but appears to have backed down.
An urgent meeting of the country’s Attorney General, Minister of Sport and other stakeholders including Johansen was called at the State House in Freetown on Monday lasted deep into the night and it was resolved to petition FIFA.
“In a meeting held at State House on Monday and chaired by the Chief Minister Professor David Francis, in the presence of the Minister of Sport Ibrahim Nyelenkeh, Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) executive members and stakeholders, a process aimed at resolving the current impasse has commenced,” read a letter written by Johansen to FIFA Secretary General Fatma Samoura.
“The following issues were deliberated on:
*The Appeal to FIFA to lift the suspension;
*A Sierra Leone delegation to come to Zurich will be communicated shortly and;
*A Mediation process involving all critical stakeholders has commenced with all parties committing to participate and respect the outcome of a peaceful resolution.
“In view of the above, all parties engaged in the process are appealing for Sierra Leone to be allowed to participate in the upcoming AFCON qualifiers against Ghana this weekend whilst the process is being pursued.”
But FIFA were not the least impressed and in a curt response, Samoura acknowledged receipt of their letter.
“We take note that ‘a process aimed at resolving the current impasse has commenced’ between the representatives of government, the SLFA and stakeholders and that all parties engaged are appealing for Sierra Leone to be allowed to participate in the AFCON qualifiers,” reads a letter from FIFA.
“In this context, we would like to remind you that in its decision dated 5th October to suspend the SLFA with immediate effect, the Bureau of the Council specified that the suspension will only be lifted once the SLFA and its recognised leadership (led by Ms Isha Johansen) and the SLFA General Secretary Chris Kamara, have confirmed that the SLFA administration, premises, accounts and communication channels are under their control once again.
“Consequently, as long as this condition has not been met, the suspension remains firmly in place.”
Samoura further advised Sierra Leone that any proposal to have their suspension lifted, should be sent to the Bureau of the Council for approval, making them aware that this process was a time consuming administrative process.
However, she did give them a glimmer of hope that should they act timeously and submit their appeal by the close of business on October 9, maybe, just maybe, their plea could be heard and perhaps their suspension lifted before the date of the match.
Meanwhile, Ghana Football Association (GFA) Communications Director Ibrahim Saani Daara explained that they were in the dark regarding the status of the match. But they will continue to prepare as if the match will take place as scheduled until told otherwise by CAF.