The former Super Eagles coach and ex-international, Samson Siasia, has expressed utmost displeasure at the alleged nonchalant attitude of the federal government during his match fixing ordeal.
Siasia, who was initially banned for life, has seen his punishment reduced to a five-year ban and his initial 50,000 Swiss Francs fine totally reversed. While the Court of Arbitration for Sports (CAS) ruled that Siasia did not receive any bribe and did not fix any match, the court said he not report the matter when he was asked to fix matches by a club official at a club he sought to coach.
While the former Super Eagles star is grateful with the level of victory he has so far achieved in his case, he expressed reservations at how the sports minister, Sunday Dare, and President Muhammadu Buhari have treated him.
“This my issue is a government problem but up till today, we know Buhari is the President. The Minister of Sports when he came in, I met him, he told me he knew about my problem but they don’t have money and that was it. I thought what he would have done is go to the President. I am a legend, I have played, broke my leg for this country and also coached. If I played for America – yes I have an American passport but I played for Nigeria – if I was like Michael Jordan, they (American government) would take it upon themselves. The Nigerian government has not done well when it comes to my case,” Siasia said at a press conference in Abuja.
“I am not happy, I don’t know if Buhari does not watch TV or does not know what is going on, or the minister is afraid to approach him. He is a person, you can approach him if things like this happen,” he added.
Siasia believes many ex-internationals have been neglected by the country.
“Now they said they gave us houses after 27 years, are we supposed to be jumping up,” Siasia said, referring to the recent announcement by the federal government that houses promised to the victorious Super Eagles squad of 1994 will now be redeemed. Siasia was a member of that squad that won the African Nations Cup.
Though livid with the Nigerian government’s disposition to his case, Siasia is grateful for the CAS ruling that upturned his fine and reduced his life ban.
He said: “In the bible, it says in all things we need to give thanks. So, I want to thank God for the reverse of my life ban to five years and also the fine (50,000 Swiss Francs) which was reversed. Sincerely whether ban or release, I cannot afford that kind of money but I thank CAS for that.
“I read in some papers that I wasn’t pleased with what CAS has done for me, that is not true. If not for CAS, I do not think I was going to get any chance returning back to sports. So, reducing the life ban to five years is worth celebrating,” he added.
Siasia expressed gratitude to his legal team in Nigeria and Switzerland who successfully argued his case and got him a more lenient punishment.
He also thanked former national team captain, Segun Odegbami, as well as the Bayelsa and Rivers State governments for their support.
He, however, insisted he was not fairly treated by FIFA.
“FIFA didn’t allow me to say anything before banning me for life. I was actually surprised if FIFA was investigating me for three months and I did not know, they only sent me emails like you all know. I never had time to look at, I don’t think that is fair play on FIFA’s side for me to actually defend myself,” he said.
Looking back at how the past two and a half years has been, Siasia confessed it has been hell for him.
He said: “Those two and a half years were terrible not being able to work or doing anything. Right now, I am contemplating that another two and a half years without doing anything will not be easy but all the same, I thank CAS for what they have done. But I just have to find a way to pull through before going back to what I know how to do best.”
Siasia said a lot of his friends including those he played football with disappeared in his trying moments. He, however, expressed gratitude to the Nigerian media, especially sports writers for their support.
“I want to thank everyone that has never given up on me because they know the kind of person I am. Thank God this thing is out in the public now. Most Nigerians actually thought I collected money but we all have seen that I did not take even a penny. I have never taken bribe from anyone since I started coaching, I am not going to start now. If it was for bribes, I won’t be where I am today,” he said.
Appeal and debts
Though there is still a window for him to further appeal his now reduced ban, Siasia said that the financial implication that comes with it is a huge problem, especially as he is still owing his lawyers.
“I don’t want to even talk of how much I have spent to get to this point, just imagine if I will need as much as 100,000 Euros to just appeal then how much would I have spent working with two lawyers in Nigeria and two in Switzerland. If I would appeal again, then we must be sure something good will come out of it.”
In all, Siasia revealed that his biggest disappointment was in his former colleagues who, he said, turned their backs at him at a critical point in his life.
“The biggest disappointment is when your colleagues that you played with never called you to even ask how far. Even the legend games these days, I don’t know what FIFA ban has to do with that, they don’t invite me or put me in anything they are doing. This Legend games, some monies come out of it but they would just put themselves in it. I don’t know what I have done against them,” Siasia lamented.
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