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 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 InsideFootball.com. “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.”
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.”