Isha Johansen, the president of the Sierra Leone Football Association, and Desiree Ellis, head coach of South Africa’s women’s national team (Banyana Banyana), are making a difference in African football in unique ways and they are the latest speakers to be confirmed for WFS Africa, which takes place on March 17th and 18th in Durban, South Africa.
Since 2013, Johansen has been the president of the Sierra Leone Football Association, having taken office at a time when there was just one other female president of a football federation in the entire world – Lydia Nsekera of Burundi. Since then, she has overcome all kinds of challenges, from political interference to an Ebola outbreak, and sits on FIFA’s Member Associations Committee. Johansen has even been touted as a potential first female leader of FIFA.
She is also the CEO and owner of FC Johansen, a club that was named after her by the children she was supporting. This pioneering club started out in 2004 with the objective of using sport to support young people. This club would provide football opportunities to children so long as they promised to attend school and it grew, becoming a top division club. This kind of footballing entrepreneurship was always in Johansen’s blood, as her father co-founded East End Lions FC, one of the most successful clubs in the country.
DESIREE ELLIS: AFRICA’S TOP WOMEN COACH
Ellis is the current Confederation of African Football Women’s Coach of the Year, an award that recognises her efforts as the coach of the South Africa women’s national team. This team has had a special place in Ellis’ heart for almost three decades, as the midfielder from Cape Town played in the team’s first ever match back in 1993 as they defeated Eswatini, known as Swaziland at the time, 14-0, with Ellis scoring a hat-trick in that game.
After years spent captaining the side, she retired in 2002 and moved into coaching and other footballing roles. Since 2016, she has been the boss of the South African women’s national team and, under Ellis’ coaching, they qualified for their first ever World Cup by finishing runners-up at the 2018 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations, losing to Nigeria on penalties. That result ensured they went to France in 2019 and Ellis can share her unique insight into the progress of women’s football in Africa, which will be one of the main conference concepts at World Football Summit Africa.
Johansen and Ellis join an eye-catching line-up of speakers for the conference in March. This line-up includes other female leaders such as FIFA Secretary General, Fatma Samoura, KwaZulu Natal Sports MEC, Hlengiwe Mavimbela, Sports Connect Africa CEO Cynthia Mumbo, Malaika founder Noëlla Coursaris Musunka, Afro Visionary Legacy founder Lebogang Chaka, Bresmar Investment Ltd Director Brenda Kunda and Aseanchi Director of Sports business Yvonne Namai.
Other top speakers at the event include Bafana Bafana legend Sibusiso Zuma, Argentina international and Estudiantes Chairman Juan Sebastián Verón, SAFA President Danny Jordaan, LaLiga President Javier Tebas, and Sihle Zikalala, Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, which is the main partner of the event.