It is no secret that the beautiful game of football is a male dominated Sport. However, Isha Johansen is a fine example of a woman who has challenged this status quo and has endured the test of time in the game.
Since her controversial unopposed emergence as President of the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) in August 3rd, 2013, her main opponent, former Sierra Leone International footballer Mohamed Kallon was disqualified for allegedly not meeting the SLFA residency requirement.
Johansen, the erstwhile president of the SLFA, was one of only a few women in the world to have headed a National Football Association, along with Lydia Nsekera, the former President of Burundi Football Association and Izetta Sombo Wesley, the former leader of the Liberian Football Association.
Johansen came to power with the popular slogan “a dawn of a new era” promising to effect change and development in her reign as President of the FA.
She launched powerplay, an initiative to encourage women and girls to play the game and to help empower them and also started the annual African International Youth Tournament in 2009.
However, Johansen has been widely criticized by many football pundits, most recently Fajar Barrie, the BBC sport reporter, for her inability to unite the football family, upholding constitutionality, transparency and accountability in her reign.
In 2016, Johansen was detained by the Anti- Corruption Commission (ACC) for failing to provide reports regarding the SLFA’s financial statements and the use of money.
Nevertheless, FIFA defended SLFA in a letter, stating that they have already audited the SLFA and that they were satisfied with information provided by the SLFA on their financial statement to that effect.
During her reign in office, accusations of Match Fixing allegations by the SLFA on football players and match officials without evidence to prove beyond reasonable doubts deepened the football family divide in the country: thanks to the Ethics committee who in recent times vindicated those accused persons.
However, the ripple effect of the damage was huge, many football players lost lucrative contracts, officials banned from the game they love which caused excruciating psychological experiences which left an indelible imprint on the victims’ minds.
Nevertheless, Johansen has stated in several interviews that she has been unfairly targeted by the media whom she believes are spreading false allegations about her reign, and that she has been extending olive branch to her critics but to no avail.
The recent withdrawal of Isha from the SLFA election, in the 11th hours, left many Sierra Leoneans with mixed-feelings.
She claimed in a letter to the public, that her new role as FIFA Council Member requires extensive global travelling and consequently justifies the need to withdrew her candidacy for president of the FA.
However, prior to her withdrawal, she endorsed Thomas Daddy Brima who has now emerged as the new SLFA Boss taking after her.
Some football pundits hold the view that the Brima reign is an extension of the Johansen regime as he is a strong ally of Johnsen.