Having a female heading a sports federation is a rarity in sports administration. But, it becomes astonishing if it’s a football one, a game dominated by men both actively and administratively.
Sierra Leone’s Isha Johansen joined Burundi’s Lydia Nekesa as the only women to boss a football federation in the world.
The former spent eight years at the helm, but did her leadership bruise the beautiful game in Sierra Leone?
Following the resignation of former FA president Nahim Khadi due to illness, a then 48-year-old Johansen was elected unopposed following a dramatic nomination process that saw three contestants disqualified by the FIFA appointed normalization committee for allegedly breaching federation election rules.
Backed by the country’s sports minister, Johansen was welcomed by many as the country’s football messiah, citing her love, passion and connections with key stakeholders in the country as a force that will push the game to greater heights.
Unfortunately, later on, she announced her presence in the top football administration on a sour note.
The controversial manner in which her competitors were thrown out of the race in 2013 left a lot to be desired, attracting criticism from her first day in office.
Her eight-year-long stay as president would have been cut short had elections not been delayed in 2017, extending her mandate in office for another four unaccountable years until conditions relating to her integrity were met.
Johansen’s reign as Sierra Leone FA president was littered with corruption scandals that put the game in dispute. Top clubs in the country often boycotted the league, drawing world football governing body FIFA into suspending the country from its activities in 2018.
Corruption and match-fixing made regular headlines in Sierra Leone, and the epitome of it was Johansen’s spending a night in custody under detention of the Anti Corruption Commission.
As an incumbent, the eligibility to stand for a third term in office was available on the table until she chose to withdraw from the race two days to Election Day.
Having been elected on the FIFA council as the only woman in march this year meant that she chose to concentrate on the new role she acknowledged to consume much of her time.
Now with all the corruption accusations and scandals that suffocated Sierra Leone football during Isha Johansen’s industrious stay as president.
New president Thomas Brima Daddy will prove whether her step down was a win to the country or a beginning to yet another roll-caster in Sierra Leone football.