Gianni Infantino, FIFA President
The President of the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA), Gianni Infantino, has said that unity is the only driving force that will change the narrative for Sierra Leone Football. He added that they are closely monitoring the issues in the country as the Sierra Leone Football Association elections beckon. He made this statement during a courtesy call on the President of Sierra Leone, Rtd. Julius Maada Bio on 5 May at the State Lodge in Freetown.
FIFA’s President Infantino told the gathering that it was an honour and a pleasure to be in Sierra Leone. “We know how important football is in Africa. Football is talent, football is passion in Africa. In Sierra Leone, in particular, football is not just a game, football is life. I think the time has come where we have to move forward and look into the future. FIFA and CAF stand for due process, for integrity, for democracy and to make sure that we can once again put aside all negativities that have tarnished the image of football in the country in the last few years. Let us move to promote a positive and united approach because we need unity in this country,” he urged.
The Swiss and Italian national, who has been president at FIFA since 26 February 2016, also called on all stakeholders to work together to make football very attractive and a way of life. CAF’s President Motsepe called on all to work together and with him in the best interest of football and a beautiful country.
President Bio welcomed the Presidents of FIFA and CAF, noting that football remained a fashion that Sierra Leoneans loved and cherished. “It is one of the uniting forces in Sierra Leone. We are very polarized when it comes to politics, but when it comes to football, you can see the passion, you can see the joy. It is a different Sierra Leone, especially with football,” he assured.
He also stated that normally when passion clashed, there were always bits of challenges, but emphasized that the country looked forward to an SLFA leadership that would move the country as a nation. He advised that the people should not be deprived of the game that every Sierra Leonean loved.
President Bio further stated that besides the politics of football and the few challenges with regard to infrastructure, Sierra Leoneans were friendly. He called on the leadership of the two world football governing bodies to invest in the infrastructure of the game in the country.
Earlier, while welcoming the delegation from the football world governing body, Minister of Sport, Ibrahim Nyelenkeh, said the visit was historic as the country was hosting the sitting presidents of FIFA and CAF for the first time.
While introducing the visitors, the President of Sierra Leone Football Association, SLFA, Isha Johansen, said that their visit was as timely and historic as it was meaningful to the country. She thanked them for choosing Sierra Leone as one of their three Africa nation tours, the others being Côte d’Ivoire and Liberia.