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In the words of Africa's only female football boss

FOOTBALL By Sammy Kitula | February 2nd 2017
President of Sierra Leon Football Association Isha Johansen speaks during a past event. [PHOTO: COURTESY]

She is a woman of many words. She speaks her mind, no matter the subject.

She is knowledgeable and easy to be with. Welcome to the world of Isha Johansen, President of the Sierra Leonean Football Association.

The 52-year-old Johansen has been a woman of firsts. She is the first female president of a football association in Africa; she was the first woman to serve in Fifa’s security and integrity committee...

When she speaks, her words are full of conviction, leaving no doubt she is a true leader. Football has been her way of life for as long as she can remember. Her father was a football administrator too. When she speaks, all pay attention. They listen with a keen ear. When she spoke on Tuesday evening here in Libreville, yours truly was all attentive.

“We will thrash Kenya in our 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers,” Johansen said. Her words jolted me to an upright position. Strong words, but coated with intense passion.
The last time Harambee Stars featured in the epic biennial football tournament was in 2004 in Tunisia.

And in search of a qualification that has otherwise proved elusive in the past 13 years, Stars will play five-time winners Ghana and Cecafa brother Ethiopia and Johansen’s team, Sierra Leone. The 2019 edition will be held in Cameroon.
Sierra Leone, who are ranked 96 in the latest Fifa rankings, have endured a longer lull than Kenya. They were last at the Afcon in 1996. But for Johansen and her team, they are ready to rewrite the formbook.

“We will fight very hard, but be assured that we will defeat Kenya. That, we will do.”

Harambee Stars, who are ranked 87 in world’s best teams, will be wary of Ghana, the group favourites. The Black Stars, who play Cameroon tonight in the second semi-final of this year’s Afcon, are ranked 54th by Fifa.

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The qualifiers will start in June and end in November 2018. Winners of each group will join Cameroon in the final tournament as well as the best three runner-ups in all 12 Groups.

Kenya will begin the qualifiers with an away date against Sierra Leone on June 13.

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