The crisis in Sierra Leone football deepens as Fifa suspends congress

Sierra Leone Football Association President Isha Johansen
The Sierra Leone Football Association President Isha Johansen

The football crisis in Sierra Leone has deepened after the annual congress of the country's football governing body - scheduled for Friday to pave the way for elections next month - was suspended by Fifa.

The term of office of the current Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) led by Isha Johansen, comes to an end on 3 August.

Fifa says the congress is postponed indefinitely until a task force can be sent to Freetown to sort out issues at the SLFA relating to integrity checks.

Fifa took the decision based on recommendations by its member associations committee of which the President of the SLFA, Isha Johansen (pictured) is a member.

"The MOU signed by its Secretary General, Fatma Samoura, the Sierra Leone's minister of sport Ahmed Khanou and Johansen had not been adhered to and as a result the same problems appear to remain unresolved," Fifa stated in a letter sent to the SLFA.

"The implementation of integrity checks to current, and potential SLFA executive members have not been carried out.

"Judicial bodies and administrative officials registered under the SLFA must also undergo an integrity scrutiny.

"The Fifa members association committee resolved that a task force be created composed of representatives of Fifa, Caf, SLFA and the Ministry of Sports to look into issues in relation to integrity of matches," Fifa added in their correspondence.

SLFA spokesman Ibrahim Kamara says they are bound to comply with the Fifa directives.

"We were working towards holding the congress and then we received a letter from Fifa postponing it.

"Fifa has been following Sierra Leone. We must comply with their directives as mandated by the Fifa status," said Kamara.

Samoura visited Freetown last November to try and resolve problems within the SLFA and as a result a road map to peace was set out with the minister of sport serving as a moral guarantor.

The SLFA held an extraordinary congress last March and formed judicial bodies including an ethics committee to investigate match fixing allegations as part of the implementation of the road map to peace.

But the SLFA is opposed to the committee conducting investigations and also wants all members of judicial bodies and some of its executive committee members to undergo integrity tests.

Sports minister Ahmed Khanou is disappointed at Fifa's stance and has insisted that the congress must go ahead.

"I'm shocked, devastated and disappointed at Fifa as I was supposed to have been the first port of call as moral guarantor," Khanou told BBC Sport.

"I'm surprised because as moral guarantor I didn't send any complaint to Fifa and neither am I aware of any complaint by the SLFA.

"Sierra Leone is a sovereign state and should not be held to ransom. The Congress must go on as planned.

"I've requested the SLFA to send me a copy of the Fifa letter since I was not copied in, and I'll take it to my boss President Ernest Koroma and government will then come out with a position."

The leader of the aggrieved members of the SLFA, Idrissa Tarawally, says Fifa does not have the right to stop the congress.

"Sierra Leone is a sovereign state and the SLFA is an autonomous body," Tarawally told BBC Sport.

"The SLFA has its constitution which is the regulatory instrument. Holding of the ordinary congress is a constitutional requirement.

"I really don't understand how could someone in his right senses relate the holding of an ordinary congress to an integrity test.

"Is it that all of the delegates must undergo an integrity test? I really don't understand this.

"The membership have received notification for the Congress on the scheduled date and we are set looking forward to that date," added Tarawally.

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