Sierra Leone crisis forces women’s teams to be pulled from WC qualifying as cash frozen

November 3 – Sierra Leone’s women have withdrawn from both under-20 and under-17 World Cup qualifying as the crisis within the country’s troubled football federation deepens.

The Sierra Leone Football Association, whose president and general secretary are being investigated for alleged corruption, said the withdrawal was due to its bank accounts being frozen while the investigation is ongoing.

SLFA president Isha Johansen and general secretary Christopher Kamara both pleaded not guilty on Monday and were released on bail.

“I’m disappointed that we’ve withdrawn our women from the Under-20 qualifiers,” said acting secretary general of SLFA Abdul Rahman Swarray. “We’ve pulled out because of financial difficulties as the SLFA account is currently restricted.”

Sierra Leone’s sports minister Ahmed Khanou said the SLFA had not told the government about the team’s participation in adequate time to find the funds.  “We will pay both teams their training allowances as means of compensation,” he told the BBC.

The withdrawal came four days before Sierra Leone were due to welcome Cameroon in the first leg of an under-20 penultimate round qualifier. Cameroon have therefore automatically qualified for the two-legged final qualifying round which will be held in January with the under-20 finals due in France next year.

Johansen, who is seeking re-election but whose position remains unclear (she is currently stood down while allegations against her are investigated), views setting up a national women’s football league as one of the biggest successes of her tenure.

“With more and more Sierra Leonean women playing football, more and more qualifying as coaches and referees, we have a lot of role models to inspire girls to get involved,” she recently told Reuters.

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