Exclusive interview: The Sierra Leone Deputy Sports Minister Ismail Al Sankoh-Conteh reveals Sierra Leone football misery, the Ministry relationship with Sierra Leone Football Association and the psychological trauma the Ministry, stakeholders, national players and Journalist facing with the present Football FA.
Bittar: what is the course of the ongoing problem in football and the national team downfall?
Al Sankoh: The reason for the downfall of the national team Leone Stars is the fact that the Sierra Leone Football Association is always in confrontation with stakeholders of football, Journalists, and Football fans.
The continuous disrespect and disregard by the SLFA to the Ministry of Sports and the National Sports Council, especially on actions and decisions reached at meetings between the Ministry and the FA, whereas the Ministry of Sports and the football association resolved for the implementation of issues to promotes football.
The FA had been on record’s of always on complete denial to respect these unanimous decisions.
This happens in the appointment of Atto Mensah and John Sama as national coaches for the national team. The selection of artificial turf for our home matches, the Sports Ministry agreed with the SLFA to play our home matches in Morocco or Ghana, the FA went ahead and finalized an arrangements with DR Congo to play our home matches, against the fact we are to host them, the encounter in DR Congo was devastating and counterproductive for the country.
The issue of the team jersey came up, when the SLFA proceeded and secured an ill advice sponsorship, they went into an arrangement with a company called AMS, without consulting the Ministry or disclosing the package of the sponsorship.
Sierra Leone used those jerseys in all our matches without any explanation from the FA on the package of the sponsorship. These are some of the reasons that are responsible for the downfall of football under the current SLFA.
The SLFA is in the habit of creating bad blood among the players and technical team and destroying the good plans on pre matches arrangements.
Bittar: But the FA will argue that is not the Ministry position to appoint a coach or secure a sponsorship deal for the national team and that they are responsible for administering the football?
Al Sankoh: The Ministry is responsible to employs coaches for all sporting disciplines including football. They have no right by the laws of Sierra Leone to go into contract or sponsorship without the consent and approval of the Minister, the Ministry is providing 100% financial support to the national team.
Bittar: Can Ministry and SLFA work together to change all these football predicament in Sierra Leone, for the sake of Sierra Leone.
Al Sankoh: The Ministry of Sports is developing a sports policy and review the sports council act of 1964. The Ministry is pinpointing for unity and stability in football, we want the SLFA to be transparent and respect its stakeholders, football must be restructured and allow the participation of grassroots and community football to be played in various parts of the country.
The Sierra Leone premier league must be restructured and the standard of the first and second leagues must be consistent and effective.
There must be a program for school pupils, Youth and women football and those structures must be regular and played in at districts and Chiefdoms levels.
The football clubs and their administrators must be empowered to promoting the game.
Bittar: Why the Sports Minister, Paul Kamara, and the SLFA boss Isha Johansen all of a sudden can’t work amicably.
Al Sankoh: The Ministry of Sports has always been supporting the FA and particularly their president to implement activities to promoting the game, the Minister believe in effect collaboration and partnership with the SLFA, but the current president of the SLFA is very intransigence and disrespectful to the Ministry and the Minister, with the leadership style of the current president and secretary general of the SLFA, it doubtful to seeing cordiality and harmony.
Bittar: Recent media report saying FIFA is not investigating any match fixing allegation at present. I believe you aware that in July this year, jointly with the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) and the Sports Ministry pronounced an indefinite suspension on four national team players and eleven officials, any light on the above?
Al Sankoh. I will reserve my comments on the above as I had always made a disclaimer to talk on that issue, for the sake of consistency.
Bittar: Stakeholders are calling on Congress, I understands the National Sports Council already given approval.
Al Sankoh: The National Sports Council had written to the football stakeholders, following their letter to the Sports Council, expressing their concerns and demanding to convene an extraordinary Congress, after making several demands to SLFA executive committee, in which the committee had failed to adhere to their concerns.
The Football Association is a member of the National Sports Council and part two of the sports council act of 1964 mandated the council to help in the interpretation of associations constitutional provisions.
Therefore, article 28 of the SLFA constitution makes provisions for stakeholders to hold extraordinary Congress in the event the executive committee fails to do so.
The sports council have approved the December 20th SLFA extraordinary Congress and the outcome of the Congress decisions must be respected to the latter.
Bittar: Few months ago the SLFA embarrassed the Minister and Ministry in Cameroon during Leone Stars qualifiers (two sets of coaches named) SLFA appointed coaches taking charge of both matches. What do you make of the FA action standing there grounds.
Al Sankoh: The Ministry and the SLFA contentiously agreed that Atto Mensah should be the head coach and assisted by John Sama while Christian Dauda will serve as the National Team Manager.
Apparently we were totally dismayed to be notified that the SLFA had appointed other coaches and technical team for the national team, without consulting the Ministry of Sports.
The President of the SLFA, Isha Johansen and her Secretary General, Chris Kamara went and made unholy and unreasonable arrangements with the Cameroon FA, to bankroll the home match of Sierra Leone in Cameroon, meaning they are to buy air tickets for Sierra Leone Football team and officials, responsible for hotel accommodations and transportation.
The Ministry of Sports was unaware of that arrangement and frowned at it because the government through the ministry of Sports had already provided funds to support the national team and its officials.
This was a very bad action by the SLFA to undermine the work of the ministry. The SLFA also disregarded the officially approved list of delegations to Cameroon and removed the names of all the journalists, the team coordinator, the two coaches and team manager from the list sent to the Cameroon football federation, this action by the SLFA president and general secretary led to deportation of five Sierra Leonean.
Bittar: Many pundits and stakeholders are of the opinion that with the present football authorities, that includes the Ministry Sierra Leone Football will never develop are you sharing the same opinion.
Al Sankoh: No. Is well documented that the current SLFA leaderships are enemies and haters of football, they want to use the FA to enrich themselves. It will be very difficult for football to develop under the present SLFA; they have problems and fighting with journalists, football fans, football stakeholders, the Ministry of Sports and Sports council and even within their executive committee members.