Last two-and-a-half years have been my most agonising, says Siasia
• Friends, colleagues, players abandoned me
• I am still consulting with my lawyers on next step
For Samson Siasia, there is still nothing to celebrate despite the Court of Arbitration for Sport’s (CAS) decision to reduce his sanction by FIFA from all footballing activities for life to five years.
In 2019, FIFA banned Siasia from all football related activities for life over an alleged plot to fix matches. In addition, the world body also imposed a CHF 50,000 fine on the former Super Eagles’ striker.
FIFA based the sanction against Siasia on his liaison with Wilson Raj Perumal, a convicted match-fixer from Singapore. FIFA said it tried to contact Siasia via email, adding, however, that the coach never replied any of its messages.
FIFA had said in 2019 that Siasia was “guilty of having accepted that he would receive bribes in relation to the manipulation of matches in violation of the FIFA Code of Ethics” and also fined him 50,000 Swiss francs ($54,000).
Shocked by FIFA’s judgment, Siasia ran to CAS to seek justice. CAS earlier scheduled hearing on the case on March 19, 2020, but later postponed it severally owing to the outbreak of the novel Coronavirus and the travel restrictions that came with the virus.
The world adjudicatory body recently held the session virtually, giving Siasia the chance to answer to the charges.
In its verdict last week, CAS said the imposition of a life ban was ‘disproportionate for a first offence, which was committed passively and which had not had an adverse or immediate effect on football stakeholders.’
CAS said: “The panel acknowledged the need for sanctions to be sufficiently high enough to eradicate bribery and especially match fixing in football.
“However, the panel considered in the particular circumstances of this matter that it would be inappropriate and excessive to impose a financial sanction in addition to the five-year ban since the ban already incorporated a financial punishment in eliminating football as a source of revenue for Mr. Siasia.”
Ordinarily, the CAS verdict would have elicited some form of joy and/or hope from the former national team coach, but that is not the case. Instead, Siasia still feels that justice was not done in his because “I am innocent.”
Speaking during a media briefing in Abuja on Friday, Siasia said he expected CAS to discharge him of all the charges because he did not do anything wrong. He also lamented the attitude of some of his friends, his colleagues and players, who went through him as a coach, saying ‘people I trusted distanced themselves from me.’
Narrating his experience, Siasia said it was unfortunate that FIFA did not give him the opportunity to answer to the charges, which forced him to approach CAS for redress.
He said being absent from football, the only trade he knows has not been easy on him, lamenting that being out of the game for another two and half years would not be an easy task.
“I just have to find a way of spending the time before I get back to what I like doing.
“This case has taught me so much. Some of my friends and former playing colleagues did not look at me this period.
“My colleagues never called me to find out what was happening. They have stopped inviting me to All Stars and Legend games.
“The worst is that most Nigerians actually think I took money to fix matches, but it is now clear that I didn’t take any bribe. And FIFA did not look at what I told the agent when he came to offer me a job.
“I was told that my offence was that I did not report my conversation with Perumal to FIFA.”
Siasia, who thanked Rivers and Bayelsa state governments for helping him to fight his case, said he would still have to meet with his lawyers to know the next step to take.
He added: “I worked with four lawyers, two in Nigeria and two in Switzerland, and they cost a lot money.
“To appeal CAS ruling, I need 100,000 euros. That is why we are looking at it to know what would be the possible outcome of another appeal.”
The coach, who led Nigeria to silver and bronze medals at the Beijing 2008 Olympics and Brazil 2016 Olympic Games respectively, said the Federal Government’s attitude to him during his trial was not encouraging.
“The sports minister just told me there was no money. I expected him to take my case to President Buhari… I am not happy the way I have been treated by Nigeria.”
Siasia is also not happy with the attitude of some of the players he took to limelight, saying it was unfortunate that none of them cared to find out what was happening to him.
“I trained players like Mikel and others from the U-20 World Cup to the Olympics. I know without that some of them would not have reached the height they attained in football.
“In 2005, I went to Bayelsa State government and got $50, 000, which I used to take my team to a training tour before the U-20 World Cup in Holland. This is just one of the sacrifices I made for Nigeria, but nobody cares.”
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