Samoura blunder leaves Sierra Leone focusing on regional first steps

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When FIFA secretary general Fatma Samoura (pictured right) visited Sierra Leone last month on a working trip that was partly to mediate in the ongoing dispute between the national association and the government over the way football there is run, she somewhat surprisingly suggested that the country bid for the under-17 women’s World Cup.

Being from Africa herself, was she trying to talk up the Continent’s credentials and her own roots – no women’s World Cup across any age group has ever been hosted in an African country – or had she forgotten that the 2018 tournament had already been awarded to Uruguay in May? Or perhaps a bit of both?

In what appeared to be an embarrassing blunder, Samoura said at the time: “I bring good news about the possibility for Sierra Leone to host the FIFA U-17 Women’s World Cup. I have promised President Koroma that FIFA will support Sierra Leone if they bid. We’ll make sure that they have all the tools and mechanism and the means you need to get that competition being hosted by the country.”

Now, however, the Sierra Leone Football Association (SLFA) says it is now focusing on staging a regional tournament instead after realising Uruguay has been handed hosting rights to the 2018 global women’s event.

Hosting any world cup, male or female, at such short notice would have been a major challenge for Sierra Leone in terms of developing infrastructure as it currently has just one stadium cleared to host international matches. Nevertheless the SLFA has taken encouragement from Samoura’s comments.

“It has opened our eyes and encouraged us to bid for an international tournament in the near future,” SLFA director of competitions Sorie Ibrahim Sesay was quoted as saying by the BBC. “We want to start at regional level before thinking about moving to the continental and global levels.”

Sesay says the SLFA has already approached West African Football Union (WAFU) to host the regional body’s under-20 men’s tournament next year. “Our President Isha Johansen (pictured left) has already expressed our intention to host the WAFU U-20 tournament during a recent WAFU meeting held in Dakar,” he added.

“If we have a good tournament we’ll consider bidding to host a continental junior or youth tournament then a FIFA competition.”

Contact the writer of this story at moc.llabtoofdlrowedisni@wahsraw.werdna