"We're The Ones Suffering" - Sierra Leone Captain Reacts To FIFA Ban
Sierra Leone captain Umaru Bangura says the players are the ones suffering because of his country’s current ban from international football.
The suspension was imposed by world football’s governing body, Fifa, because of third-party interference in the running of the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA).
It led to Sierra Leone’s Africa Cup of Nations back-to-back qualifiers with Ghana in October being cancelled.
“The suspension is affecting us the footballers as we’re the ones suffering the most,” the FC Zurich player told BBC Sport.
“This isn’t good for us. We feel disappointed because we know it has a negative effect on our football careers.”
The 31-year-old, who made his international debut in 2006, was already in a training in Freetown preparing for the matches when he received news of the ban.
“Some foreign players including me were already in camp in Freetown when we heard the sad news about the suspension. We didn’t feel good,” he explained.
“Other overseas players were at different airports to fly to Freetown from their respective countries where they play their club football.”
Bangura is calling on all the parties involved to work towards having the suspension lifted in time for their next qualifier against Kenya in Nairobi on 17 November.
Football Kenya Federation has said the national team, which currently tops the group with seven points, will continue to prepare for the match until told otherwise by the Caf.
“It’s always a special feeling when you play for your national team. We’re hoping that the suspension will be lifted,” said Bangura, who has had stints in Norway and Belarus.
“If the suspension isn’t lifted in time for the Kenya game, then it means we no longer have any hope of qualifying for the finals in Cameroon.
“It’ll end the hopes of the ageing players in the team to ever play in the Nations Cup finals. For these players it’s either now or never.
“We had resolved that this time we should qualify for the Nations Cup.”
Despite Bangura’s pleas Fifa has said that it will only consider lifting the suspension after the case against the top SLFA officials is concluded in court.
The case has now been adjourned until 12 November after lawyers representing SLFA president Isha Johansen and secretary general Christopher Kamara began the defence of their case on 31 October.
The pair are facing three counts of corruption, which they deny, brought by Sierra Leone’s Anti Corruption Commission, who have set aside both Johansen and Kamara from their SLFA posts.
Fifa still recognises Johansen as SLFA president while the ACC sees vice-president Brima Mazola Kamara as being in control alongside and assistant secretary general Abdul Rahman Swarray.
The ACC says that under Sierra Leone law, both Johansen and Kamara must vacate their posts until their case on corruption-related charges concludes.