From the Editor’s Keyboard

Isa Johanssen’s dignified silence

20 September 2016 at 23:05 | 1853 views


By Titus Boye-Thompson, Guest Writer, Freetown, Sierra Leone.

Public life holds out too much risk for the fainthearted in Sierra Leone.

For the virtuous and the resilient in spirit, there may just be about enough fibre to withstand the turbulence of that existence. It robs you of your dignity at the best of times but the wholesome reward of being able to make a difference is always a bigger pull than the minor infractions of a call to scrutiny that public life embraces.

For a long time now, the fortunes of the Sierra Leone Football Association was a cauldron of confusion and chaos. The vested interests bent on continuing a culture of waste and tumult in the sport led to several bad electoral processes and false starts at establishing a sound governance structure for football in Sierra Leone.

Notwithstanding the fact that most of the ones vying for leadership positions had some very questionable alliances, the past record of mismanagement in the sport generally did not bode well for a structured agreement on ways forwards for the sport.

In the event, the football league effectively became entangled in so much confusion that it had to be jettisoned. At the helm of all this turmoil in the sport in Sierra Leone, one solitary woman rose to prominence after a group of scraggly youths she nurtured became the toast of Europe.

With success after success in football tournaments, FC Johansen flew the flag for Sierra Leone and the hard work that underpinned the meteoric rise of the team was not lost on the very lady who had used her own resources to shore up confidence in these local boys whose alternative destination would have been street gangs, crime and prison. Hers is nothing short of a miracle but the unquestionable quality that she displayed was a determination to surpass her odds, to see the goal for where it is and not be burdened by the obstacles in the field.

The Isa Johansen (Photo. Credit: BBC) rise to football prominence is one of hard work and diligence. In a sport dominated by men, some of them as unyielding for power as ever, it is no secret that her leadership of SLFA is strewn with detractors and objectors.

However, whatever the reasons for the continuing imbroglio at SLFA, one would have trusted the agreements reached recently at State House that the current administration should be supported to run out their time and effect their programs as best they can. In the meantime, it was understood that the sport would in itself establish its own structures in accordance with the dictates of the world football governing body, FIFA, to ensure that Sierra Leone retains its position as a valued member of such an august world body. Whatever moves were being made by this Executive should remain a matter for the football stakeholders to handle within their own internal procedures. To pour disdain on such attempts in building a credible sport governance structure devoid of political intervention would be detrimental to the progress already being registered by SLFA, and even by the Government, whose appointment of a new Minister of Sport marked a radical departure from the heavy handedness of the former Minister, Paul Kamara. The dust should be allowed to settle and in that process, it may be best to allow the SLFA to deal with its issues internally in the first instance.

Some have argued that the call by the ACC on Isa Johansen and others would have been averted if they had turned up as requested by invitation. While that may be a simplistic an approach to take, the fact remains that the ACC was always going to make a big deal out of any such invitation. The interest in Isa Johansen is huge, global in nature and in some respect, deleterious to the good image of Sierra Leone if she is being portrayed as a victim under pressure.

Institutions must be allowed to build their own lived perpetuity. That is the mark of a truly modernising society. When outside interests impose themselves on the functioning of institutions, then the sustainability of such institutions comes under question. The institutions stand the risk of losing the only mechanism that it has in place to correct themselves and ensure that they can survive. SLFA needs to be able to survive its turmoil, otherwise it becomes itself a football in the hands of unscrupulous persons with financial clout or political power. That is the very reason why FIFA scorns political interference in the running of national football associations.

The shock and sadness that Ms Johansen felt would have subsided by now, the horror of that public invitation to the Anti-Corruption Commission now a receding memory but the pain and bitterness would not easily go away. She would be self-reflecting and soul searching to come to terms with what is happening around her.

In the end, her strength of character is what she will be left with. It is sad that this society revels on bringing good people down. However, some good people are finding a way of beating them in their game. The more they bring it at you, the better prepared you become and for someone like Ms Johansen, it may very well be that her courage would lift her sport to better and higher heights as those who plot and plan for her downfall are shamed into silence.

She on her side has done well to hold on to a dignified silence!