While the World was deeply engrossed in the theatrics surrounding the enthronement of South African mining magnate and President of Mamelodi Sundowns Football Club, Patrice Motsepe, to the Presidency of the Confederation of African Football (CAF), there was another under-the-radar fight for the FIFA Council seat reserved for an African women’s representative.
This position would pit the incumbent Burundian Lydia Nsekera against Sierra Leonian Isha Johannsen, Nsekera had held onto that position since first being elected in 2013, while Johannsen had held onto the reins of the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) in a vice-like grip for the exact same time, often with the assistance of FIFA even where it was necessary to bend or break all known statutes meant for the sane running football.
Case-in-point, Johannsen ignominiously presided over a shameful 5-year period wherein there was no (zero) local football activity. All the leagues and competitions had ground to a halt since 2014, first due to the Ebola epidemic and later because she was too pig-headed to put the interest of the ordinary SL playing youth above her own and compromise with the football owners (clubs) to resume playing.
When the Government of Sierra Leone opened criminal proceedings for corruption against Johannsen, FIFA quickly stepped in and suspended Sierra Leone from all footballing activities, claiming Government interference and only reinstated the country and National team after she was exonerated by the Sierra Leone courts.
Comparatively, Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) was in the exact same position at the exact same time, where Government anti-corruption agencies had indicted the 5 top officials of the NFF with graft charges in two separate legal processes.
The NFF officials who were indicted by anti-graft agencies were Amaju Pinnick (NFF President), Sunusi Mohammed (NFF Secretary), Seyi Akinwumi (1st VP), Shehu Dikko (2nd VP and Chairman of the NFPL) and Yusuf Ahmed Fresh (Executive Member).
At no time did FIFA whip out its big stick for Nigeria, but conversely and in a glaring display of double-standards, went after the small Nation of Sierra Leone, until its nascent jurisprudence buckled under the weight of expectation and ruled in favor of FIFA.
Among the top football pundits in the World, there was a silent prayer that Isha would not win this election against Lydia, but a confluence of factors led to the 28 votes to 24 votes win for Isha.
FIFA protection had enabled Johannsen to get away with never once presenting SLFA financials (budgets and audited accounts) since the 2013 elections yet somehow FIFA has continued to disburse annual grants and FIFA Forward monies to SLFA without these.
In a letter to her step-daughter, Isha describes herself thus;
“I, on the other hand, can assure you that I am a strong and confident African woman who is very clear as to where I come from and where I am going”.
She continues, “My country loves me and is proud to have ambassadors like myself who will put their country on the map”.
This description of herself is contained in a series of letters that comprise the 2018 memoirs of Wenche Elin Eklund, ex-wife to Arne Birger Johansen (who would later marry Isha) who was formerly the CEO of the Sierra Leone Cement Company and an Honorary Consul for both Norway and Sweden in that country.
So confident was Isha in her personal abilities that barely 3 weeks into her tenure as SLFA President, she slapped former Inter Milan and Sierral Leone International, Mohammed Kallon across the face during a league match.
When asked by FIFA about this assault, she didn’t deny it, rather explained it away that he (Kallon) had said something inappropriate to her when she confronted him about shouting on the sidelines of a football match, and she felt the compunction to smack him down.
Her hair-trigger temperament is mentioned in Wenche’s memoirs more than a few times and Kallon need not have said anything inappropriate to warrant the smack on the face by Isha.
Kallon had been her fiercest opponent in the elections for the SLFA Presidency just a few weeks earlier, in a hotly contested and disputed race overseen by FIFA. He had been barred from running on a technicality created in the SLFA statutes that stated that any contender would need to have lived in Sierra Leone for 3 straight years in order to be eligible to contest.
Kallon had taken a 6-month playing tour of China where he wound up his professional playing career and it is this 6-month hiatus that was used to eliminate him from the race.
The 2013 elections that brought Isha to the SLFA Presidency unopposed were not easy, coming as they did from the last term of another former Sierra Leone International Nahim Khadi which should have ended well in 2012.
Unfortunately Khadi spent his entire 2nd tenure in England over health issues, and the SLFA was largely run by a secretariat in that period. The secretariat run a rag-tag league which would occasionally get small injections of sponsorships including from Isha’s husband, Arne Johannsen’s, Cement Company.
It was this long absence from the country by Khadi that gave birth to the amendment in the SLFA statutes that a prospective SLFA President must have remained in the country for 3 straight years preceding the election.
FIFA was forced to step in to install not one, but two, Normalization committees (NC) to oversee the review of statutes and hold elections for the SLFA. These committees after a while would not want to be involved in the running of football and whilst the first one resigned, the 2nd NC almost resigned too before the elections.
Matters came to a head immediately after the “election” when the top-flight clubs refused to play because they contested her legitimacy as SLFA President, and when the Sports Ministry or Head of State queried this state of affairs or offered to intervene, she would request FIFA to send a few threatening letters.
From 2013 – 2019, the formal position taken by Isha and her SLFA SG Chris Kamara was that they were under attack because of their opposition to betting syndicates, a scandal that had touched on some senior players, and been resolved years before she came to power.
Into these accusations, she would lump everyone who was opposed to her leadership (and they were many), from clubs, to Ministry officials and even the Presidency.
When her first act in office was to arbitrarily sack the incumbent National Team Coach and Bench, whose salaries and other technical bench expenses were catered for by the Government, the obvious reaction was the termination of the arrangement, with the entire burden now falling squarely on the SLFA.
Isha sprinted to then CAF President Issa Hayatou to ask for assistance which he graciously gave in terms of support for the Men’s senior National team, and ensured that the Leone Stars was able to participate in qualifiers and in the process, stave off a long suspension.
We will give you 3 guesses as to who was the first person to turn on Hayatou and throw their support behind the disastrous Ahmad Ahmad Darw of Madagascar during the 2017 CAF Presidential elections…
Despite the complete lack of football on the ground in Sierra Leone, Isha was never far away from the international limelight, having been chosen into several committees of CAF and FIFA.
We had always asked here, how and why Sierra Leone was able to continuously access FIFA and CAF grants despite no football in the country. Where was FIFA’s all-seeing eye in this case or did it hit a blind-spot when I scanned that western-most part of the Dark Continent?
FIFA insiders reveal to us her clever modus operandi in which she used the International limelight brought on by her FIFA and CAF committee assignments to tour the World, popping in occasionally at FIFA in Zurich, where she would make courtesy calls on Sepp Blatter and the media department to sign off on the register and make sure that her presence was noted and recognized.
Peculiarly, she would give a wide berth to the Member Association Department which was charged with resolving the crisis back home.
We can only imagine just how confused the FIFA leadership would be to be told of a crisis in SL yet they just saw Isha in Zurich the previous week, where she likely told them that she was there to help in the resolution of matters back home.
Isha skillfully deflected FIFA pressure to hold a General Assembly at home, to date it has been 8 years with her at the helm of the SLFA, receiving FIFA and CAF money without account, must be extremely potent witchcraft or someone, somewhere has dropped the ball.
When Infantino came to FIFA in 2016 with Veron Mosengo-Omba in tow, the latter picked up the Sierra Leone file and stuck it into his drawer, never once really mentioning it.
Today Veron is the new CAF SG, in the “Unity Deal” brokered by Infantino that would see Motsepe become a lame-duck CAF President and virtually assure Infantino all 54 votes at the Congress in 2023, unless of course, Swiss jurisprudence catches up with him beforehand.
In 2016 Mme. Fatma Samoura (FIFA SG), in one of the first of very few crisis management cases she would get involved in, travelled to SL to meet the various stakeholders and even the Head of State. When she addressed the media afterwards, she reiterated the fiction that a solution had been tabled with the consent of everyone, that a working group had been formed to look into the issues, and that all would be resolved in a few months.
Ironically and as a pointer to just how much bullshit she spewed on that day, she went as far as to advise the Head of State to apply (as a conciliatory gesture) for the hosting rights to the U-17 FIFA Women’s World cup which, it was later discovered, had already been awarded to Uruguay!
But how can such a disaster for Sierra Leone football and now African and World Football have come about?
You cannot divorce her mentality towards football leadership from that of her family life as laid out quite candidly by her husband’s ex-wife, Wenche Elin Eklund in her memoirs “20 years in Africa – a husband’s double life”.
In it, Wenche (a Norwegian former Hairdresser) describes her life with her husband of 37 years Arne Birger Johansen where both were blessed with 3 daughters, Arne’s career rose steadily in Africa over 2 decades before culminating in the Sierra Leone posting where he became the CEO of the SL Cement company.
At some point in the late 90s, the SL civil war had caused an evacuation of foreign nationals from the country to their homes including Arne and Wenche Johansen, but Arne Johansen had come back earlier when a ceasefire was agreed upon and peacekeepers deployed, to continue with his work at the Cement Company, alongside his eldest daughter and her own fiancé.
At the time of his return to SL, he had left his wife in Norway and instead met Isha, a twice married, twice divorced socialite who had returned to SL from England after peace had been achieved at home.
Infact the meeting was not accidental, apparently Arne Johansen had seen a picture of Isha in a magazine and organized with a local fixer to invite her to a party that he (Johansen) would organize.
She was therefore picked out of a picture, much in the same way bats are picked out of cages at the Huanan wet market in Wuhan, and which triggered this global pandemic that has hamstrung the globe.
She had previously been married and divorced to both a Nigerian and a Dutchman well before she hit 35 years of age and had a child from one of the Unions.
It was Wenche’s elder daughter who had recently given birth and was living with her father in SL (which was warm and nice unlike Norway) who would describe Isha to her mother.
Arne Johansen had introduced his daughter to Isha, telling her that Isha could assist get her work in town, obviously because she (Isha) knew everyone.
When Isha arrived at the restaurant to meet Arne’s daughter, she was apparently dressed shockingly, as she had on a pair of tights and a see-through netting top and a black bra underneath. Arne’s daughter would go on to describe Isha with some very unflattering nouns.
Isha had quickly built a reputation of attaching herself to rich men of means, since her return to SL, but would leave them promptly when their financial fortunes took a turn for the worse. In the small elite community in SL, wives of well-to-do men feared and hated her fiercely in equal measure.
Arne then began an open affair with Isha, heartlessly breaking off his marriage to Wenche, despite being a CEO and General Consul in country where everyone knew his wife and children.
It is when Wenche and her daughter decided to confront Isha by way of letters that she got some intriguing responses.
Here is an excerpt from a letter written by Isha to her (now) step-daughter.
“You guys do not give up, do you? Which part of I DONT WANT YOU ANYMORE do you not understand? Both you and your mother are a pathetic and neurotic bunch.
What can one expect from two confused bitches whose only achievement in life has been washing greasy hair, and wiping dog`s arses?
Well until you guys came along, I did not know us black hookers were quite so capable of grabbing white men from 35 years of family life, not bad at all.
I, on the other hand, would like to think that it is because I fuck him in a manner he never knew was possible.
HE DOES NOT KNOW WHETHER HE IS COMING OR GOING.
Perhaps if madam had tried being a wife and a hooker instead of being such a frigid old nagging cow, she might be with her man today”.
This is the language and World view from the woman that Africa has elected to represent their women’s football interest at the highest decision-making body in the World!
Even before Arne and Wenche had formalized their divorce, Isha already had child with Arne and the divorce would now be a mere formality.
Upon getting married in a lavish ceremony, Isha had switched things up and life became one party after another, she managed to run through what money was being brought in by Arnes side business and he actually had to raid the Cement company coffers to keep up with her expenditure.
They formed the club FC Johansen in the early 00’s which jumped into the top flight, and Arne was able to channel some sponsorship its way from the Cement company.
It is this club and its participation in the SL leagues that brought Isha to that fateful day in 2013 when 2 contenders for the SLFA Presidency were controversially locked out of the running and she was “elected” unopposed.
And here we are today, Isha is still a boil in African football that is in serious need of being lanced.
They say that karma is a bitch, Arne Johansen was unable to meet payments for his ex-wife’s pension after she had tanked her career in Norway to follow him around Africa, simply because his own pension was withheld by the cement company to recover money that he had advanced himself, in an attempt to keep up with Isha’s extravagant lifestyle.
Arne Johansen, once knighted by the King of Sweden, was eventually sacked by the cement company and (as expected) kicked out by Isha. He made his way back to Norway alone, sickly and utterly ruined.
He is probably kept warm in the Norwegian winter by memories of the hot sex he had with her, and as a testimony to her words that after sex, he would never know whether he was coming or going!
African and World football is the poorer for her presence at CAF and FIFA. Isha sees the World in black and white, dog-eat-dog…she is not a builder or creator, she is simply a consumer.
Just like she has done with many men before, used them and then dumped them like “a bottle cap or a piece of lint”, African football faces similar prospects.
By her own admission, she is willing to fuck just about anyone to get her way, and any man of weak constitution at FIFA will likely fall prey to her wiles.
And our football will be the worst for her being there!