Sierra Leone boss backs CAN 2015 postponement

Reuters, Friday 31 Oct 2014

CAN 2015
CAN 2015

The president of the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA), who has seen the sport come to a "grinding halt" in her country because of the Ebola outbreak, has backed host Morocco's request to have the African Cup of Nations finals postponed.

Isha Johansen also revealed that the SLFA has used money donated to the organisation by the sport's international governing body Fifa, which had been intended to develop football infrastructure, to drive charity projects raising awareness of how to avoid contracting the deadly disease.

Johansen, one of just two female football association presidents, believes Morocco's fears of staging the continental championship in January, with Ebola still uncontained in west Africa, are valid.

"It's unfortunate, but if I were in their position, I'd be looking at saving lives," she told "It's a valid fear. Who's to say we would not have acted the same way if we were Ebola-free?

"Am I worried that the tournament may not happen? Yes I am. It's a really tricky one because it's now on the political as well the footballing agenda. But like everything in life, if you haven't felt it, you don't understand the magnitude of it."

Johansen claimed the SLFA have already used some money from Fifa to aid UNICEF in raising awareness of measures to prevent contamination, but says as a football association they will look to do more.

"Pregnant women are dying because of lack of medical facilities. We need to raise much more money and I'm already thinking about a charity event, maybe in England. But as an FA, we can only be a part of the solution," she said.

Ebola has taken its toll on Sierra Leone's national team, who last month had a 50-hour round trip for a 'home' game against DR Congo that was instead played in Lubumbashi.

"It's just horrible," said Johansen. "We recently had a 'home' game in Congo which was gruelling. The guys had to travel for around 50 hours. Then there is the fact that our fans can no longer watch the national team here, or any of those big names coming to their country."

Not only has the playing of football come to a stop in the country, but Johansen says getting together to watch games is off for now too.

"All football activity has come to a grinding halt and that includes open-air public gatherings to watch games on giant screens, part of our culture," Johansen said. "Africans love to hug each other but all of that has stopped.

"It's frightening, not least the psychological toll. You are fighting an enemy you cannot see. We've been through a brutal civil war but at least you knew how to identify the enemy."

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