No football in Sierra Leone without Johansen, says FIFA after Zurich talks hit impasse

October 19 – An eagerly awaited meeting between high-ranking FIFA officials and Sierra Leone’s warring football factions has failed to produce the necessary breakthrough and provide a clear way forward.

Earlier this week Sierra Leone’s Sports Minister, Ibrahim Nyelenkeh, accused the country’s FA president Isha Johansen (pictured left with FIFA general secretary Fatma Samoura) of being personally responsible for FIFA shutting down the federation despite on-going criminal investigations into its leadership.

FIFA cited “government interference” as the reason for last week’s suspension but Nylenkeh said Johansen, who was removed because she was being investigated by the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission, was instrumental in FIFA’s decision and insisted she would not be re-instated.

To try and resolve the impasse and find an amicable pathway that could lead to FIFA lifting the ban, a delegation flew to Zurich Thursday representing both sides of the dispute including Johansen and Sierra Leone Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Priscilla Schwartz.

Under the suspension the SLFA cannot play in international competition  and it was hoped some clarity could also be brought to bear in terms of the Africa Cup of Nations qualifying double-header between Sierra Leone and Ghana, called off by the Confederation of African Football less than 48 hours to the first game was due to take place. But this was not resolved either.

Instead a compromise of sorts was reached.

“FIFA recognises that there is an ongoing trial by the Anti-Corruption Commission of Sierra Leone against the SLFA President, Isha Johansen, and the SLFA General Secretary, Christopher Kamara,” a statement said. “FIFA will wait for the completion of the trial before further measures can be considered, including the lifting of the suspension by the Bureau of the FIFA Council, if deemed appropriate.”

Both Johansen and Kamara have long been embroiled in a bitter power struggle but deny any wrongdoing. Johansen claims she is the victim of trumped-up charges designed to stop her carrying out an inquiry into match-fixing and corruption allegedly perpetrated by high-ranking opponents. But her mandate as president came to an end over a year ago and no fresh elections have yet taken place.

In its statement FIFA said the government of Sierra Leone had “committed to appoint its new representative to the Task Force for Sierra Leone, which also includes representatives from FIFA, CAF and the SLFA, and to ensure all the necessary support for the deployment of the Sierra Leone Inquiry Group to conduct the match-fixing investigation from 4 to 9 November 2018.”

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