Fifa could ban Sierra Leone if it feels there has been government interference in football matters

BBC Sport

Fifa secretary-general Fatma Samoura is to visit Sierra Leone to address the ongoing dispute between the country’s football association (SLFA) and local authorities.

Football’s world governing body has requested a meeting with Sierra Leone president Ernest Bai Koroma and other leading officials.

“We are confident that Sierra Leone’s president and government officials will understand and honour our request for an official visit on 16 November,” Samoura wrote in a letter to the SLFA.

“We are convinced a positive solution can be found with the necessary commitment from all parties.”

Samoura also hopes to discuss a match-fixing inquiry relating to a Sierra Leone international in 2008.

In 2014, 15 national team players and officials were suspended indefinitely over allegations of match-fixing relating to the goalless Africa Cup of Nations qualifying draw against South Africa.

The SLFA launched a match-fixing inquiry earlier in 2016 but it is still in the hands of the government and has yet to formally proceed.

“We would like to pay a courtesy visit to the President of Sierra Leone, Ernest Bai Koroma, as well as the Minister of Sports, the Commissioner of the Anti-Corruption Commission and the three-person committee currently conducting the SLFA match-fixing enquiry,” Samoura wrote.

“We kindly ask the SLFA to contact the abovementioned authorities to arrange such a visit on behalf of Fifa.”

In September, Fifa warned local authorities against interfering in SLFA business, stating that ‘over the course of the last three years, Fifa has noticed several activities of third parties that could be considered as interference (in) the running of the SLFA.’

Support for SLFA president Isha Johansen

Fifa disapproves of governmental interference in the running of football and has banned several countries in the past for such actions.

The world governing body also gave staunch backing to SLFA president Isha Johansen, who was released without charge after being detained by anti-corruption officials in September.

The only female football president in Africa spent a night in custody in Freetown after failing to attend a hearing set up by the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) on 7 September, whereupon she was arrested.

The SLFA’s vice-president and secretary general were arrested as well but also later released without charge.

All three denied wrongdoing during their questioning by the ACC, with Johansen saying her innocence in ‘any allegations involving corruption or related offences is undisputed.’

With documents and computers having been removed by armed police and ACC officials from the SLFA office, Fifa said it was monitoring the situation.

Now it will travel to Sierra Leone to meet SLFA officials on 15 November, prior to a proposed meeting with President Koroma the following day.

“Fifa would like to demonstrate to the government of Sierra Leone that it is fully committed to supporting the development plans and programmes for football in Sierra Leone that have been presented by SLFA President Johansen,” stated the Fifa letter sent on 1 November.

The ACC has previously stated it is investigating funds the SLFA received from Fifa, the Confederation of African Football (Caf) and the government of Sierra Leone.

Fifa later said there had been no ‘misuse of the funds’ it had given to the SLFA, while Caf has yet to comment.