Opinion:Madam Isha Johansen:Light At The End Of The Tunnel For Seirra Leone Football

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By: Daniel Koroma PhD-Manchester, UK

She widely popularly called the “Iron Lady”, CAF referred to her as a “Champion” former FIFA President hailed her as a “Warrior”. 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 using the power of football to transform the international perception of a country known for doom and gloom, trouble, wars and strife, a whole new dimensional perception of hope and achievement.

Reknown international tabloids and media houses have referred to her as being a “Trial 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 in the WORLD until a year later when SONIA BENOIT of Turks and Caucus became the second female to head an FA in the world.

She has given youngsters a real life story of hope through her club FC JOHANSEN that young people can not only dream, but they can also through hard work and determination realize and live the dream. 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… this sums up ISHA JOHANSEN.

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.
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.

Lets take a look at what she has done in (4) four years of her tenure in office. Two years of which has been plagued by 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.

Football has three departments: Administration, Technical and Marketing & Media.

When Isha’s administration came in office in 2013, these three areas of football had major challenges.

Under her leadership, she has been able to do the following:

1. Administration- she is today fixing our shattered and dilapidated Secretariat into a state of the art Football Secretariat. With Hotels, gymnasium, class rooms for training and education and an Administrative building with state of the art equipments that can withstand the test of times. Including a befitting Techincal Department with an Education Officer. Also, developing Regional Associations, by renting office space for them and also putting modern equipments in them.

2. Techincal- Her leadership has trained more than 120 coaches from D- A licenses certified by CAF which has never been done before. We are one of the best countries on compliance with 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 ages of 45 years old. Presently, all the coaches managing the national team’s are products of her Adminstration. And they are all CAF A- License holders. We have also done the CAF Club Licensing Management and we are today met and compiled with the global football requirements.

We have played FA cups competitions nations wide which have been dormant for over 9 years for lack of sponsorship. LEOCEM has been the key sponsor with over Le 1billion Leones spent.

We had two coaches trained by English FA and Arsenal Football Club in England. Also, the English FA with partnerships from the British Council held two weeks training courses for coaches and referees in Sierra Leone with facilitators drawn from the English Premier League (Hull & Stoke Cities Football Clubs).

3. Marketing and Media-
I can’t over emphasis how the corporate bodies and international community have changed their perception of Sierra Leone football under her leadership. She has been able to build a brand that can withstand any other FA in Africa just within 4 years. She is today in CAF Executive Committee, a Member of Member Associations Committee; Integrity and Ethics Committees in FIFA. She is the Chairman for Female football in CAF and she has won several outstanding international awards.

Under her leadership the SLFA took part in 14 international matches all played out of Sierra Leone during Ebola without a cent from Government. When the former Minister of Sports. Paul Kamara requested that government should stop funding the national teams of Sierra Leone.

The Swedish Ambassador, American Ambassador, British High Commissioner and the British Minister for Overseas Development have all visited the SLFA under her leadership. Included but not limited to visits by Samuel Eto and the FIFA Secretary General, Madam Fatma Samoura.

Corporate Social Responsibility:

SLFA has now become a sound name in the field of CSR.

Ebola struck and there was pandemonium. One woman decided to use football to fight the deadly disease. It was she that came up with the idea to then FIFA President Blatter to gather football greatest icons like Ronaldo, Drogba, Messi and other world’s great football icons to mount a campaign against Ebola termed “FIFA 11 against Ebola”. It was this very woman who initiated the FIFA to make the very first financial pledge of $50,000 which was handed to President Koroma and in turn to UNICEF. It was this very woman who mounted a campaign to erect proper water tanks and facilities for market women in populated markets areas during the Ebola fraught times. It was the very woman who rallied the UK FA and English Premier League to join in the campaign fight “KICK OUT EBOLA”.

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 symbolizes both.

Football in Sierra Leone will be GREAT AGAIN under her LEADERSHIP.

She 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 equipments to various sporting associations nationally on international duties.

This woman has always be a friend to the poor and needy, organizing Christmas parties for the less privileged at the SLFA grounds every year. Also, visits all hospitals to greet the first born in December of each year in all the hospitals in Freetown.

Her leadership successes are endless.

Today we have a proud kits sponsor, Mafro Sports worth over $80,000 per annum excluding international friendly package. A global brand embraced by emerging football nations including the following ( Sierra Leone Zambia, Kenya and Zimbabwe among others) in Africa.

She has represented the Sierra Leone Government in an international investment forum in the United Kingdom.

This woman has always been invited to speak at several international forums like Women’s Trust along with Mrs. Cherie Blair, and other leading global female pioneers. 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 etc.

Under her leadership, she has never lost an international ‘A’ match in Sierra Leone. And this is the first time a sitting President, His Excellency Dr. Ernest Bai Koroma has watched a complete match in which he became the first President to be victorious returning home happy.

The successes are endless. With all of these renditions in terms of her achievements and successes, the SLFA President currently stands unmatched. And the level she has accelerated in global football administration has position Sierra Leone very high in terms of challenging terms during Ebola and Economic austerity. When all was doomed and gloomed.

Today the SLFA is in partnership with the British High Commission, British Council, Swedish Embassy, IPC Travels and Tours, Radisson Blu Hotel, Eco Bank, LEOCEM, American Embassy, UNICEF, Chinese Embassy, Egyptian Embassy to name but few.

Sister, well done you make us Sierra Leoneans at home and abroad proud. This is the true meaning of “change”.

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