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:
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.
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