Football in Sierra Leone

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Football in Sierra Leone
Governing body Sierra Leone Football Association
National team men's national team
National competitions
Sierra Leone FA Cup
Club competitions
International competitions

Football is the most popular sport in Sierra Leone.[1] The governing body is the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA).[2] The SLFA was formed in 1960 and has been affiliated with FIFA beginning the same year.[3] There has been and continues to be trouble within the sport in Sierra Leone. In the past, however, the country has achieved a modicum of success in international competition.

National competition[edit]

The Sierra Leone National Premier League is the top football league in Sierra Leone, with 14 teams.[4] At the completion of each season, the two worst teams are relegated to the second tier, and their places taken by promoted teams.[4] East End Lions and Mighty Blackpool are the two biggest and most successful football clubs,[5] but Kallon F.C. is also improving, winning the Premier League in 2006.[6]

The Sierra Leone FA Cup is the national knockout competition.[7] It was established in 1967.[7]

Sierra Leonean teams, as well as those of other African countries, have to compete with European football, especially the English Premier League, for the hearts of fans.[8] The country is home to the one of the largest Manchester City supporters club outside of the UK.[9] In 2009 and 2010, fans and supporters of Manchester City raised funds to send a second-hand bus to Sierra Leone to provide transport for away games.[10]

International competition[edit]

The Sierra Leone national football team is popularly known as the Leone Stars and represents the country in international football competitions.[1] Though the team has never qualified for the FIFA World Cup, they did participate in the 1994 and 1996 African Cup of Nations.[11] On 3 September 2016, the national team had a chance to qualify for the Africa Cup for the first time in 20 years if they could defeat Ivory Coast, but could only manage a 1-1 draw in an away match.[12]

The top two Premier League teams represent the country in the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions League and Confederation Cup.[4] Kallon F.C. eliminated 2006 Nigerian Premier League Champions Ocean Boys FC in the 2007 CAF Champions League first qualifying round, but later lost to ASEC Mimosas of Ivory Coast in the second qualifying round for the group stage.[13]

The Sierra Leone U-17 football team, nicknamed the Sierra Stars, finished as runner-up at the 2003 African U-17 Championship in Swaziland, falling 1-0 to Cameroon,[14] but came in last place in their group at the 2003 FIFA U-17 World Championship in Finland.[15]

The women's national team is known as the Sierra Queens.[16]

Troubled decade: 2010s[edit]

The 2010s have proven to be a decade of turmoil for the sport in Sierra Leone. The outbreak of Ebola in western Africa resulted in the Confederation of African Football instituting a ban preventing Sierra Leone, as well as Liberia and Guinea, from playing home games within the country beginning in August 2014; only after Sierra Leone was declared Ebola-free was the ban lifted in December 2015.[17] (Liberia's ban ended in September 2015,[17] and Guinea's in January 2016.[18]) From 2013 to the middle of 2016, there were two FA Cups and one league season.[19]

In June 2014, allegations were made that two football officials and a national under-20 coach fixed two matches, in 2008 and 2009.[20]

There is also ongoing dissatisfaction harboured by fans and teams against the SLFA, headed by Isha Johansen.[19] On 9 December 2015, the National Sport Council decided to dissolve the SLFA's executive committee.[21] The SLFA, however, refused to accept the decision.[21] Attendance is low at SLFA-organised games, even one where entry was free.[19] 11 of 14 of the premier league teams formed a breakaway league that ended in early 2016; it also failed to attract large crowds.[19] Six premier league teams boycotted the 2016 FA Cup.[19]

On 7 September 2016, SLFA President Isha Johansen, Vice President Brima Kamara and Secretary General Christopher Kamara were jailed by the Anti-Corruption Commission for failing to provide reports regarding the SLFA's financial statements and the use of money.[22] The trio were released after posting bail.[23] FIFA defended the SLFA in a letter, stating, "FIFA has no reason to suspect there has been misuse of funds that FIFA has provided to the SLFA", having audited the SLFA's accounts earlier in the year.[24]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b Falola, Toyin; Jean-Jacques, Daniel (14 December 2015). Africa: An Encyclopedia of Culture and Society [3 volumes]: An Encyclopedia of Culture and Society. ABC-CLIO. p. 1070. ISBN 9781598846669. 
  2. ^ "About us". Sierra Leone Football Association. 
  3. ^ "Member Association - Sierra Leone". fifa.com. 
  4. ^ a b c "Sierra Leone National Premier League". Sierra Leone Football Association. 
  5. ^ "East End Lions FC". Sierra Leone Football Association. 
  6. ^ "FC Kallon". Sierra Leone Football Association. 
  7. ^ a b "Sierra Leonean FA Cup". Sierra Leone Football Association. 
  8. ^ Mohamed Fajah Barrie (16 July 2009). "Sierra Leone fans flock back". BBC News. 
  9. ^ "Manchester City Fans Furious as Sierra Leone Donations 'Hijacked by Corrupt Local Officials' [VIDEO] - International Business Times UK". Ibtimes.co.uk. 2013-06-22. Retrieved 2013-11-16. 
  10. ^ "BBC - Sierra Leone City fan in 'thank you' trip to Manchester". BBC News. 2010-12-01. Retrieved 2013-11-16. 
  11. ^ "Sierra Leone: Profile". FIFA. 
  12. ^ "Ivory Coast: Africa Cup of Nations champions qualify for 2017 tournament". BBC News. 3 September 2016. 
  13. ^ "CAF Champions League 2007 Results". soccer24.com. 
  14. ^ "African U-17 Championship 2003". rsssf.com. 
  15. ^ "FIFA U-17 World Championship Finland 2003: Groups". FIFA. 
  16. ^ "Sierra Leonean FA Cup". Sierra Leone Football Association. 
  17. ^ a b "Ebola-free Sierra Leone cleared to host football". Al Jazeera. 7 December 2015. 
  18. ^ "Ebola-free Guinea cleared to host World Cup qualifying matches". ESPN FC. Associated Press. 4 January 2016. 
  19. ^ a b c d e Mohamed Fajah Barrie (19 July 2016). "Sierra Leone fans and players turn to non-league football". BBC News. 
  20. ^ Mohamed Fajah Barrie (3 June 2014). "Sierra Leone officials deny match-fixing". BBC News. 
  21. ^ a b Sahr Morris Jr. "Sierra Leone Football Crisis Deepens". Sierra Leone Concord Times. 
  22. ^ Umaru Fofana (8 September 2016). "Sierra Leone Football Association officials arrested by anti-graft agency". Reuters. 
  23. ^ "Top Sierra Leone FA officials spend night in jail in corruption investigation". Associated Press. 8 September 2016. 
  24. ^ "Fifa backs Sierra Leone FA in use of funds". BBC News. 21 September 2016.