Sierra Leone Football Association has been suspended by FIFA with immediate effect due to government interference in soccer affairs.
FIFA’s decision came after it wrote to the African country’s sports minister expressing “grave concern” about the removal of SLFA president Isha Johansen and general secretary Christopher Kamara.
FIFA had asked for both individuals to be allowed to access Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) premises without delay to ensure the operations of the association, including FIFA-funded projects, were not jeopardised.
“The suspension will be lifted once SLFA and its recognised leadership have confirmed to FIFA that the SLFA administration, premises, accounts and communication channels are under their control once again,” FIFA said in a statement.
“Following its suspension, SLFA has lost all its membership rights as defined in article 13 of the FIFA Statutes. The SLFA’s national and affiliated club teams are no longer entitled to take part in international competitions until the suspension is lifted.”
Last month, the country’s Anti-Corruption Commission followed through on a threat to raid the SLFA’s offices amid allegations of match-fixing involving the national team.
FIFA are also looking at matches as far back as a World Cup qualifier against South Africa in 2008 as part of their own investigation into the match-fixing allegations. Both Johansen and Kamara deny any wrongdoing.
FIFA says it suspended Sierra Leone from international football because of government interference in how the national federation is run.
FIFA acted on Friday, six days before Sierra Leone is scheduled to play a 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifying game in Ghana.
The intervention aims to protect the elected president Isha Johansen, a rare example of a woman heading a FIFA member federation, and her CEO-like general secretary.
Typically, FIFA’s threatened action forces government authorities to back down and restore elected officials.
FIFA asks that both officials “be allowed to access the SLFA premises without further delay to ensure that the operations of the SLFA, including FIFA-funded projects, are not jeopardized.”
Sierra Leone is set to host Ghana in another continental qualifier on Oct. 15.