Africa In Focus

Africa In Focus: "The mainstream thinking now is that Africa is different and we could get it right if we want. The choice is fully ours, and it is now time for us to define what we want."

African Development Bank (AFDB) President, Dr. Donald Kaberuka.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Portrait of Sierra Leone Entrepreneur and Football Paragon: Isha Johansen

By Sotunde Oluuwabusayo

There are two types of people in this world – those who make history, and those who are part of making history.

 Those were the words of Isha Johansen (Tejan-Cole); when she made her decision to run for  the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) top seat –  an aspiration that could lead her to become the third female boss of a football association in Africa.

Born into the family of Tejan-Cole, one of the Grand patrons and football stalwarts with the East End Lions football club; Freetown socialite, sports enthusiast and entrepreneur, Isha Johansen can be tagged as one of mother Africa’s dynamic children. She has stepped out of the shadow of her football lineage to carve a name for herself in the heart of many particularly in her country.

Isha is known for her work with youths in her country particularly in the area of football. It was with her stint as the founder and CEO of FC Johansen that she rose to prominence in Sierra Leone football domain, particularly with the recorded successes of her club in international youth competitions.

The 47-year old business savvy entrepreneur established Sierra Leone’s premier league, FC Johansen, in 2004, a time when Sierra Leone was still in her recovery days socially and economically. Today, FC Johansen is one of Sierra Leone’s football pride and success story.

Narrating how the Football Federation started Isha said, “There were a group of neighborhood kids who literally would be playing football just meters away from where my husband and I live …. I promised them I would provide them with footballs, jerseys, and rubber sandals if they agreed to stay in school. That was the beginning of the FC Johansen story.”

Four years after she created the football club, her team represented Sierra Leone at the annual Mittnorden Cup in Sweden where they won the silver medal. FC Johansen won the Swiss Under-16 Cup last year, defeating Liverpool at the finals. It also won the Mitnordick Cup in Sweden in 2009.

Isha’s club is also the first and only club to have hosted an international youth football tournaments in Sierra Leone, bringing in teams all the way from Brazil, Norway, South Africa, and many other teams from West Africa to play international standard football in Sierra Leone. The games were played at the national stadium in Freetown.

Apart from this, Isha is credited as the pioneer of the annual African International Youth Tournament which she created in 2009.

In her course of supporting the youths; Isha struggles to get visa for some young Sierra Leone young football players all of whom she ensures return home after games abroad. To achieve this, what she does is to educate them before they leave the country on the advantage of coming back home and the ramifications of their actions if they should run away.

Her immense contributions to Sierra Leone football have also exposed young talents while re-branding Sierra Leone to the world.

Over the years, she has been featured on SuperSports “Soccer Africa” programme on DSTV as one of the powerful force behind Africa football. Last week, she was also honored by leading telecommunication company, Bharti Airtel as one of its DIVAS (Diligence Integrity, Virtuous, Accommodating and Strong character); a programme which was meant to add and improve on the value to women in society  while using women from different backgrounds, culture, and race who have depicts true characters of a good woman and show strong determination and drive to succeed in life.
When she first started F.C Johansen, many people in the nation’s football industry did not take her seriously but today Isha Johanssen is as serious as she can get with her achieving the milestone of being the first female to contest for president of Sierra Leone’s Football Association (SLFA), the highest position in the country’s football institution in this year’s election-  a post in which seasoned football administrators  like former Sierra Leone international star, Brima ‘Mazola’ Kamara and seasoned football administrators Rodney Edmond Michael and Alhaji Mohamed Nabie contested for.

Believing in Isha dream, Former Leone Stars player and also aspirant for the Sierra Leone Football Association presidency, Brima Mazola Kamara, later stepped down from the race to pitch camp with favorite candidate Mrs. Isha Johansen as her Vice President.

Isha follows in the footsteps of the current president of the Burundi Football Federation, Lydia Nsekera, and the former head of the Liberian FA, Izetta Wesley, who in their own right have created a mark in African football.

Sierra Leone’s Sports Minister, Paul Kamara once portrays her thus: “She is the first woman in Sierra Leone to do so much for football and she has created lots of opportunities for young players. She’s an iron lady.”

As an entrepreneur and business woman, Isha has achieved many firsts in Sierra Leone.

Apart from being an accomplished Public Relations consultant, Isha is also recognised as one of Sierra Leone’s most remarkable female publishers, who has shown the love for her country to the graceful eyes of the international community. She became Sierra Leone’s first female publisher with he roduction of Rapture Magazine, an entertainment magazine which features the likes of Iman, Mohammed Ali and President Yahya Jammeh. She subsequently published KABO, Sierra Leone first inflight magazine, which champions progressive stories in her home country to the international community. The magazine ceased to publish after the airline it serviced went bankrupt. Isha have also worked as a contributing editor for Africa international lifestyle magazine, Ovation.

In 2003 and 2005, she hosted WOMEN OF EXCELLENCE AWARD, a platform used to honour sierra Leonean women at home and abroad. The award recognised Liberia president, Ellen Sirleaf, long before she became the country president.

Isha is also a breast cancer activist. Her NGO, Pink Charity Fund, which was established in 2006, is centered on this cause. Pink charity is an NGO registered and working with Sierra Leone ministry of health that championed the eradication of breast cancer among all sectors of the socio-economic stratum among Sierra Leonean women.

Over the years, Isha has been recognised for her work in championing women advancement, youth empowerment, sport management and humanity. She has demonstrated all this, through her various charity works.

In an interview with Africa sport TV, Isha describes herself as “a new breed of African Women who are now daring to step into male dominated walk of life. She is not a dedicated feminist but she believes in taking on challenges and does not believe that a woman should concede to be second best simply because she is a woman. She is an ardent believer in building the next generation….our youth.”
No wonder, her former boss, Dele Momodu, the Publisher of Africa’s leading society magazine, Ovation, described her as a brand 12 years ago.

As a writer once described her work, “Isha has through her various charity works demonstrated how any honest citizen can be of service to her country without maligning hard working citizens and lampooning leaders because of jaundiced political affiliations.”

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