The news was a bomb. Samson Siasia, banned by FIFA for life and to pay a fine of $50,000 Dollars! Who did he kill? That was the first question that immediately came to my mind. You can’t earn such a punishment without committing a capital offence. That sentence is akin to taking Samson’s life because football is his life, as it is for some of us too. Why would FIFA destroy the reputation of a former player and celebrated coach, his livelihood and his future for the ‘sin’ of an intention to commit an offence, and not for the offence itself? Yet, even the intent is still shrouded in secrecy almost two weeks after the verdict. FIFA’s judgment took the world by surprise. No one seemed to know that the Nigerian gaffer was involved in any matter least of all one of match-fixing and that the case had been ongoing for a long time. Even Samson initially shouted to the world, in shocked reaction, that he did not know about the matter and was never invited to defend himself. But that was before an email correspondence surfaced on social media clearly showing that FIFA invited him, did not receive a response, decided to try him in absentia and inflicted the maximum punishment.
To me, the entire matter no get head. The facts do not tally with the alleged offence or the gravity of the conviction. Up till now, FIFA has not stated what happened and connected the dots to Samson Siasia. Samson has not been accused of fixing any match, and there has not been any evidence to show that he took part in any match-fixing. According to FIFA’s letter, Samson did not respond to two email messages sent to him to defend himself. FIFA obviously took this very badly. It meant either disrespect or disregard for it. In that state of mind, and with a new broom sweeping the organisation that was trying to clean up its image, it was important it made a big statement that there’s a new and different Sheriff in town.
Samson Siasia, unfortunately, became an easy pawn at this time. To start with, he is from a part of the world designed for hapless victims. Were it not so, why would any institution hand down a death sentence (which this is) and then ask the victim to pay an additional fine? Is the fine to commute the sentence or what? Or is it to make sure that the convicted remains convicted forever? I have followed the many scandals of FIFA in the past few years. The allegation against Samson Siasia pales in insignificance compared to the least of the many horrendous crimes committed by powerful men inside the organization that stole FIFA dry and almost destroyed its integrity.
At the end of the day, what happened to them? Even Blatter and his co-travellers were slapped on the wrist compared to Samson’s sin and sentence. On Siasia’s ‘crime’, up till now, over one week after the public pronouncement of a ban, no word has come from FIFA satisfactorily answering all the questions being asked about the case. Even their affiliate member, the Nigeria Football Federation, headed by a man who is clearly very close to the top hierarchy of FIFA, did not show he knew anything about the matter before the sentence. I am still trying to wrap my head around the whole matter. Why would FIFA, with all its power, descend with its full weight and wrath on an ordinary Nigerian on a matter that is reeking of half-truths from a sinking man without an iota of integrity? It also reeks of racial bias and treatment. In football, as other global issues, the architecture is not in favour of the Black person to succeed. Even on the football field, despite all the years of global outcry against it, racism still thrives, yet ‘death sentences’ are not passed onto known ‘other’ perpetrators. The case of Samson Siasia is one that defies easy understanding. Here is a son in emotional trauma. His mother is still with unknown persons demanding impossible ransom for kidnapping her. Then a body that should embody compassion turns its back to its ordinary member because he commits a small error and dismembers him with a sledgehammer. I cannot still believe it.
Nobody even knew he was embroiled in a case that had been on for almost a decade. Samson, in his initial reaction, also said he was not aware of the matter, and that he was never invited to defend himself. An email from FIFA debunked his initial claim but still does not answer how a person without anything to hide would disregard a summons for such a serious matter. Samson would still have to explain his action that obviously infuriated a FIFA struggling furtively to build a new image of incorruptibility after the spate of scandals that rocked the organization to its foundation during the Sepp Blatter era. That may explain why FIFA, under Giovanni, is doling out harsh sentences like popcorn these days to Africans that can’t fight back. To confirm the haplessness of Africa, even the Confederation of African Football in its entirely has been taken over by FIFA in an unprecedented move that many consider recolonization by a new means. If that is FIFA’s thinking, it had better go and do a rethink because Nigeria shall surely come fighting back. I am interested in this match-fixing scandal story involving Nigeria. Mr Wilson raj Perumal, the man at the head of this match-fixing syndicate, in his well-publicized deposition with FIFA, mentioned Nigeria as one of the possible beneficiaries of his match-fixing. He did not say he directly fixed Nigeria’s match, but that he could have influenced another match involving teams in the same group as Nigeria during the last qualification matches for the 2010 World Cup. His story was so shallow when I first read it some years ago, that I took as the ranting of a man that wanted to take down the whole of football establishment with him after been caught in his failing racket. Now, he has succeeded in selling exploits of half-truths and incredulous stories as a match-fixer, and making good money and getting global attention. He has no reputation to protect. I read some of his narratives and wrote them off as gibberish. Football is not that easy to be that rigged, even though attempts at fixing games have been long in practice. His story about Nigeria and the 2010 World Cup has K-leg. He cannot take any credit for Nigeria’s qualification because he tried to influence another match played elsewhere between two other teams in Nigeria’s group, one of whom needed to lose for Nigeria to qualify. Balderdash. Believe that and you will believe anything. The Federal Government of Nigeria took qualification so seriously that it set up a Presidential Task Force that worked hard with the team to earn qualification for the championship. It was not the handiwork of a trickster pretending to be able to fix matches and destroying an institution and the lives of innocent victims in the process. No one must diminish Nigeria’s hard-earned victory in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup. Incidentally, Samson was not even anywhere near that team. FIFA should be careful with how it handles the Perumal stories. The man has no integrity and giving them much credibility will destroy the game of football. FIFA was being too harsh in this Samson Siasia matter. If all they have against Samson are his failure to respond to their email letter and to defend himself against the frivolous stories told by a man that has no ounce of credibility, FIFA is standing on a very weak ground on this matter. The good news is that the NFF has joined Samson Siasia to take the case, without fail, to the Court of Sports Arbitration to appeal FIFA’s draconian decision.