Victoria Conteh has been appointed as the first female head coach of a Sierra Leone men’s Premier League side because she’s “qualified and that’s the bottom line”, according to the club’s owner.
East End Tigers – formerly known as Gem Stars of Tongo – have hired the former international on a two-year deal.
The 45-year-old is the second woman to manage a top-flight men’s club in Africa after Ethiopia’s Meseret Manni coached Dire Dawa in 2015.
“We’ve decided to appoint her because she’s qualified and that’s the bottom line,” owner Victor Lewis told BBC Sport.
“It shouldn’t be a man or woman thing, it should be about who is qualified to do the job.
“We’re happy to secure her services and we believe her appointment is good for the women’s game.
“She has a two year mandate and we’ve given her the target to finish in the top four and we are very confident that she can deliver.”
Conteh is the only Caf ‘A’ licensed female coach in the country and has previously been in charge of the national under-20 women’s team and the Sierra Leone Police Women’s outfit.
But she is not new to the men’s game, having previously been in temporary charge of the now defunct men’s second-tier side Delta Strikers.
“I’m happy and proud about the appointment and I welcome it with open hands,” Conteh told BBC Sport.
“This is a surprise Christmas package for me because I wasn’t expecting it.
“I know it’s not easy for a woman to serve as coach in the top flight in Sierra Leone but I’ll cope with the pressure and I’m determined to do well.”
The new Sierra Leone Premier Division season has only just started, with East End Tigers looking to improve on a ninth-placed finish last season.
On Saturday, Conteh took charge of her first match – and the club’s second match of the season – drawing 1-1 at home to Kallon FC.
They have never won a Premier Division title in their history, but Conteh wants to change that.
“My target is to make history by becoming the first woman coach to win the top-flight. I’m determined to do what some of the men coaches can’t do.
“I know it’ll not be easy, but I have confidence that I’ll deliver. I have what it takes to do that.”
If Conteh succeeds, she will be following the footsteps of Chan Yuen-Ting who is the only female coach to have won a top-flight title, when she won the Hong Kong Premier League with Eastern in 2016.
Conteh wants to go even further, with the aim of coaching the national men’s team in the future.
“I hope this will be my stepping stone to a higher height,” she said.
“I hope to continue coaching in the top flight and my dream is to one day coach the Sierra Leone men’s senior national team Leone Stars.”
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