Sierra Leone is making yet another attempt at bringing women’s football back to prominence in the country – a seeming rebirth of women’s football, and this is by the launch of the Ladies Cup.
The country will hold its first National Women’s Championship, starting today (Friday 18 August) at the Koidu City Stadium where the Sierra Leone FA President, Isha Johansen will be kicking it off in the opening encounter between Diamond Queens of Kono district and Central Queens of Tonkolili district.
Twelve (12) female teams from around the country will engage in the championship that will be co-hosted by Kono and Makeni cities, according to the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) Director of Competitions, Sorie Ibrahim Sesay.
“This is the first time that the SLFA is playing such competition, which is in line with FIFA’s regulation in developing the women’s game. The FA will use this championship to scout young talents for our national women’s teams. It would also be used as a pivot to the National Women’s league which the FA is planning to kick start in a league format very soon,” Sesay said.
Sierra Leone played its first competitive international match against Nigeria in the qualification stages for the 1995 FIFA Women's World Cup.
While it was an unsuccessful baptism, it still showed signs that the future could be bright for female football in the country.
In that spell, five players; captain Musu ‘Pele’ Bangura, Jane Baby ‘Waitman’ Bahoi, Mabinty Kamara, Sia Kamara and vice captain Fonnie Conteh were identified as the nucleus of the future of the women’s game in the country. Some of them even went to Nigeria and played for clubsides there.
On assuming office in August 2013, Madam Isha Johansen continued her quest to take female football to great heights and worked hard to ensure that the female U20 team participated in the FIFA U20 World Cup qualifiers shortly after assuming office. Again, they did not qualify, but there was no disguising the resolve of Madam Johansen to energise women’s football in Sierra Leone.
Isha Johansen is an embodiment of female leadership in a male-dominated industry, and has resolved to do what she can to take women to huge levels using football.
Being the only FA President in the whole of Africa that is female, she sees it as a natural responsibility for her to engage and encourage other women to stand up and be counted.
“I care about football, and I want to see my country grow in football,” Johansen said. “But it is natural that, as a woman, I should care more about my gender and try and encourage many more who have the potential to be another Isha Johansen; or even better; to come up and show what they can do”.
This has fuelled her rise in the ranks, to becoming a member of CAF Executive Committee, the chairperson of the Organising Committee on Women’s Football for CAF.
Charity, they say, begins at home, and no better way to show such resolve to do things internationally than to make a success of the home championship.
Therefore, the Kono event is a very important milestone to seeing the rebirth of women’s football in Sierra Leone and to show the commitment of Isha Johansen to see a better world at large, that recognizes and respects the female ilk when it comes to football.