2015 Nations Cup: Sesay replaces Mensah as Sierra Leone coach

Sierra Leone Team
Sierra Leone team

John Ajina Sesay has taken over from Atto Mensah as Sierra Leone coach for the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Cameroon.

It is the latest development in the row between the country's football association and sports ministry over who is qualified to be the coach.

Sports ministry-back Mensah had been in charge of the team's training sessions in Yaounde ahead of Saturday's match.

But he has now stepped aside for Sesay, the football association's choice.

"I'm backing out in the interest of my country Sierra Leone and the players," Mensah told BBC Sport.

Former Leone Stars international Sesay, 52, was appointed by the football association nine days ago after it rejected Mensah on the grounds that it believes he does not have the correct Uefa licence.

SLFA's statement on Mensah's qualification
"He has a Uefa Diploma B coaching licence which only qualifies him to coach a second division team in an amateur league. It's not equivalent to the Caf (Confederation of African Football) B license, the minimum requirement Caf ask for."

However, the country's sports ministry and Mensah himself insist that is not the case and the Ghana-born coach had said he saw no reason to relinquish his position.

Mensah told BBC Sport: "I know I am qualified, I've given the FA everything pertaining to the course I did. "

A meeting between the football association and the sports ministry in Yaoundé to look for solution ended in deadlock on Friday. And it is understood there were bitter arguments between officials of the two parties and that hey had to be retrained from physical confrontation.

Earlier, Fifa sent a letter to Sierra Leone threatening them with a ban for governmental interference in football matters.

The situation placed a huge shadow over the team's preparations for the vital qualifiers against Cameroon but the Leone Stars managed to draw 0-0 in the first of the double-header games on Saturday to collect their first point in the final qualifying group phase.

However, Sierra Leone remain bottom of Group D, having already lost to Ivory Coast and DR Congo last month, and they know they must also get something out of their second meeting with the Indomitable Lions on Wednesday to stay in the race of qualifying for the finals in Morocco.

There has also been controversy off the pitch, with teams officials and several journalists, including the BBC's Mohamed Fajah Barrie, told they cannot leave their hotel during their stay in Cameroon.

The Cameroon police say the people are not on the official delegation list that has been given to them by the football federation.

Mustapha Dumbuya (left)
Dumbuya (left) in action for Sierra Leone against Ivory Coast

Before the letter from football's world governing body was sent, Mensah told BBC Sport: "I know I am qualified, I've given the FA everything pertaining to the course I did.

"I'm here and I have trained with the team. I'll be in charge for the game."

Mensah was appointed by the SLFA and the country's sports ministry in September after Johnny McKinstry was sacked.

In addition to the coaching row, Sierra Leone have had to deal with not being able to host matches because of the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in the country. They played their 'home' game against DR Congo in Lubumbashi and both their games against Cameroon will take place in Yaounde.

Leone stars defender Mustapha Dumbuya told BBC Sport: "If we had played against DR Congo at home I definitely think we would have won. We were not fully prepared but we still played well and I felt that if we had played them in Sierra Leone it would have been an easy win for us.

Dumbuya, who plays for English club Notts County, also voiced his concerns about the row over the coach.

"Right now it is difficult. The players are trying to stay motivated. It is the wrong time for this to happen - I felt we were progressing under the previous coach Johnny McKinstry," he said.

"He took us to new heights - seventh in Africa and 50th in the world - and I think his results spoke for themselves. All he needed was backing.

"I feel that the government is holding us back. We are playing important games and we don't need this situation right now."

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