The first woman to coach an elite men’s football club in Sierra Leone has thanked national team boss John Keister after he funded a life-saving operation to amputate her leg. Pioneer Victoria Conteh, who played in Sierra Leone’s first ever women’s international in 1994, also made history when appointed coach of men’s top-flight side East End Tigers ahead of the 2019-20 season. «It started like a boil on two of my toes and was itching,» Conteh tells BBC Sport Africa. It was Keister who first advised Conteh, who is also a policewoman, to see a doctor.
Surgeons amputated Conteh’s leg in November last year.
Sierra Leone men’s national football team head coach John Keister
«Keister says he funded Conteh’s treatment because of the close bond the two have built up over the years.»She’s one of my trusted friends and a trusted lieutenant,« says the 52-year-old, who guided Sierra Leone to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon.»She’s like a sister to me. «’I love challenges’ – Keister on Afcon qualification.
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«Now learning to live with her disability, Conteh, who has also coached Sierra Leone’s women at under-20 level, remains grateful to Keister for his emotional and financial support.»He’s a good man.
A coaching pioneer
As a player, Conteh featured for top-flight side Ascentonians when Sierra Leone’s women’s league first began in the early 1990s, going on to also play for Prisons, Lioness and Soccer Angels, and earning six caps for her country. «Decades later, Conteh became the only female coach in Sierra Leone to hold a top-level A Licence issued by the Confederation of African Football before East End Tigers added to the list of firsts by appointing her as their manager in the National Premier League. Sadly for Conteh, fate intervened when her first season in charge was curtailed by the coronavirus pandemic and she was subsequently ordered by her superiors with the police to take the reins with Police FC following their promotion to the top-flight in 2021.
A new role in football
Keister, too, is coming to terms with what has happened to his good friend and is pleased to hear she has no plans to give up football entirely.