FREETOWN, December 13- Sierra Leone has rejected demands by FIFA to reinstate its dissolved football association, cautioning the world governing body on Tuesday to “respect national laws”.
FIFA has given the west African nation until Wednesday to comply with the directive or risk an immediate ban from all international competition.
“Our decision stands and it will not be changed,” Ibrahim Bangura, of the National Sports Council (NSC), told reporters in the capital Freetown.
“The Ministry of Sport and the Sports Council have the responsibility to govern sports in Sierra Leone and will stand by the decision to dissolve the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA).
“FIFA must follow procedures and respect national laws. Our decision is final and cannot be changed or overturned by anyone outside our jurisdiction.”
Deputy sports minister Ismael Al-Sankoh Conteh said the NSC had been forced to take action last week after the SLFA dissolved a seven-man committee set up to identify delegates for the association’s next congress.
The NSC says the committee was set up by FIFA and endorsed by Sierra Leone’s President Ernest Bai Koroma.
FIFA outlaws government interference in the running of football and frequently suspends national associations, with Kuwait, Nigeria and Cameroon among the most recent targets for sanctions.
Online sports news portal Football Sierra Leone printed a letter on Saturday it said was from acting FIFA secretary general Markus Kattner, warning SLFA general secretary Chris Kamara of a possible ban.
“The decisions of the National Sports Council appear to amount to government interference in the internal affairs of the SLFA,” Kattner says in the letter.
He warns that unless the NSC backs down, the matter will be referred to FIFA’s Emergency Committee, which would almost certainly result in the SLFA being suspended.
“We would like to underline the dire effects a suspension could have on Sierra Leone football,” Kattner says.
“It would for instance mean that no team from Sierra Leone of any sort (including clubs) could have any international sporting contact.”
SLFA president Isha Johansen urged the government to think again in a statement on Tuesday pleading for her organisation to be allowed to “create a culture of good governance”.
“Striving to retain independence has been a huge challenge and has made the Sierra Leone football industry the focus of much international and national attention,” she said.