Samson Siasia: Guilty, the Verdict?

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Soccer fans in Nigeria were last week shocked at the life ban placed on former Nigeria international and coach, Samson Siasia by the world football governing body-FIFA over allegation of bribery. While for some, it just goes to justify the yet to be proved allegation that Nigeria coaches collect bribes from players to be invited to camp or fielded, others were of the opinion that FIFA’s information on the allegation was too vague to justify such a monumental verdict   

As recent as a year ago, Super Eagles’ Assistant Coach, Salisu Yusuf was banned for one year from all football-related activities by the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) after he was caught on camera collecting bribe from undercover journalists who pretended to be football agents.

The footage, shot by BBC’s Ghanaian reporter Anas Aremeyaw Anas in September 2017, showed Yusuf collecting a handful of money, reportedly, $1000 cash.

After considering the complaint and the coach’s defence of a video documentary, the NFF Committee on Ethics and Fair Play placed a year ban on the former Kano Pillars coach plus a fine of $5,000 to the federation within three months.

However, in spite of the glaring evidence of Yusuf’s wrongdoing, the Nigeria Football Coaches Association unashamedly pledged their support for the Super Eagles assistant coach.

In the video, Yusuf and first assistant during the 2018 FIFA World Cup, appeared to have recieved $1000, to pick two players for the 2018 CHAN championship.

He was further promised 15 per cent by the men posing as football agents of the players once they are able to seal a deal abroad.

The association according to a communique signed by it’s chairman, Ladan Bosso, who was then the head coach of FC Ifeanyiubah said they did not believe the coach should be held liable for any wrongdoing even though they respect the FIFA code of ethics.

“It is clear to the blind that the coach’s stand wasn’t distorted by the “triviality“ of the pecuniary gift made to him. The players in question prior to the issuance of the gift had already made the team and were in fact among the pillars of the team,” reads the statement.

Former Nigeria Technical Advicer, Clemens Westerhof once alleged that players bribed their way into the national team in the past.

The long-serving Nigerian manager said those players who did not merit a place in the national team got call-ups after giving money to the selectors.

He said, “We had a situation where we had the wrong people in the wrong places, even in the FA”.

Even though the Dutchman was not specific with the names of the players and coaches involved he insisted that monies usually exchanged hands between national team selectors and the players when places in the national team were considered.

“We had cases where players paid $15,000 to the coach and say ‘I want to play for the national team’ and the coach would accept. They bought their way into the national team and it was an unbelievable situation. Very sad. I know these things,” Westerhof said.

Indeed, the Nigeria Football Federation had to douse allegations that Flying Eagles coach, Paul Aigbogun, received bribe from players he selected for the U-20 World Cup in Poland after the team’s exit from the competition.

A media report (not THISDAY)  had claimed some of the players were forced on Aigbogun for the tournament, which caused infighting among the technical crew during the tournament.

“It has come to the notice of the Nigerian Football Federation that spurious messages have been doing the rounds on social media with the aim of denting the image of the Flying Eagles coach, Paul Aigbogun and by extension the NFF,” a tweet on the official Twitter handle of the NFF read.

“In as much as the NFF understands Nigerians are not happy about the exit of the Flying Eagles from the U-20 World Cup in Poland, it is imperative that the federation clear the air on the rumours.

Former Super Eagles striker and coach, Samson Siasia was banned for life and fined $50,000 by the world football governing body, FIFA for agreeing to ‘the manipulation of matches.’

The adjudicatory chamber of the independent Ethics Committee of the world football body found Siasia guilty of having accepted that he would receive bribes in relation to the manipulation of matches in violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics. 

According to the statement on the FIFA website, a wide-scale investigation was carried out on Siasia before the landmark judgment was delivered.

The statement read: “The formal ethics proceedings against Mr. Siasia were initiated on February 11, 2019 and stem from an extensive investigation into matches that Mr. Wilson Raj Perumal attempted to manipulate for betting purposes.

“This large-scale investigation was conducted by FIFA via its competent departments and in cooperation with the relevant stakeholders and authorities.

“In its decision, the adjudicatory chamber found that Mr. Siasia had breached art. 11 (Bribery) of the 2009 edition of the FIFA Code of Ethics and banned him for life from all football-related activities (administrative, sports or any other) at both national and international level. In addition, a fine in the amount of CHF 50,000 has been imposed on Mr. Siasia.

“The decision was notified to Mr. Siasia today, the date on which the ban comes into force.” The former Super Eagles coach has however denied any wrongdoing in the allegations of bribery and match manipulations levelled against him by world football body, FIFA.

Siasia also said that he was yet to be notified by FIFA on the life ban the international football body placed on him on football activities, following the allegations of bribery and manipulation of matches at the international level. Siasia, who made his position known last Friday, also said that he was never invited by FIFA to tell his own side of the story. He said that he was hearing about the allegations against him from FIFA for the first time.

According to him, “I don’t know anything about this. I did nothing wrong and I have not received any letter from FIFA.” The former Eagles coach said he would fight this to clear his name.

Meanwhile, the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) on Monday said that it was “shocked” by FIFA’s decision to impose a life ban on former national coach and vowed to overturn it.

Acting NFF president Seyi Akinwunmi said in a statement, that the FIFA report had been given to the body’s lawyers “to study and provide legal advice to the federation,” he said, adding that Siasia “gave his all for Nigeria.”

The statement added: “The NFF was shocked to learn of the investigation and subsequent decision by the FIFA Ethics Committee (Adjudicatory Chamber) placing a life ban on Mr. Samson Siasia.

“He is a football legend but most importantly he is a Nigerian.

“We respect the FIFA processes. The least we as a Federation can do is empathise with him at this time make ourselves available to him and hope that in some way he is able to clear his name.”

In a chat with THISDAY, the National PRO, Nigeria Coaches Association, Etta Egbe said he was equally shocked at FIFA allegation and eventual ban on Siasia but said he would not like to comment further on the matter since there were already team of lawyers in place working the case.

“I was very shocked when I heard the news, but since the legal team are working on the matter I am not competent to talk on the issue, Egbe said,

Siasia played 51 international matches for Nigeria, in which he scored 13 goals. He was part of the team that participated in the 1994 FIFA World Cup and won the 1994 African Nations Cup.

He was also a member of the Nigerian team that won bronze at 1992 African Nations Cup in Senegal.

He participated in the National Team over a period of 11 years.

In 2005, Siasia coached the Under 20 team and took them to the final of the 2005 Under-20 World Cup before losing to Argentina 2–1. He also assisted Augustine Eguavoen in coaching the national team.

He is the third African to be banned by FIFA for his links to Perumal after former Sierra Leone FA official Abu Bakarr Kabba and former Botswana FA official Mooketsi Kgotlele were suspended in July for five years and for life respectively.