Nigerian football icon, Samson Siasia, has opened up on the challenges he faced during his FIFA ban and highlighted the need for improved support for athletes in Nigeria.
In 2019, world football governing body, FIFA, banned Siasia from all football-related activities for life, alleging a violation of its code of ethics related to a bribery scheme for Australian matches. The ban prevented him from using his United States Soccer Federation license, although it was reduced to five years by the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) in June 2021.
Siasia, a 1994 Nations Cup winner, who coached the Nigeria’s men’s team to Olympic glory in 2008 and 2016, securing silver and gold respectively, emphasized the need for fair treatment.
“First of all, whenever anything happens in Nigeria, Nigerians will say the guy is guilty, which is wrong until investigation has been done to prove him guilty, Siasia said while speaking with Sportsville.
“Nigerians will say all Nigerian coaches are like that, but not everybody is the same. You cannot compare people. They left me all by myself. They threw me under the bus for someone who has done so much for this country. What they should have done was to invite this young man and let’s ask him questions. Nobody did that.
“They left me all by myself to run around with FIFA and all that. Who can challenge FIFA in anything? They have too much money. So I did the best that I could. I had some lawyers and some friends supporting me. My bill with FIFA was 500,000 euros, and I have not finished paying.
“The way the country just forgot about me just like that is shameful. You cannot do that to someone who has done so much for this country,” Siasia, who had two spells as Nigeria’s men’s national team manager from November 2010 to October 2011 and a brief stint in 2016 and was part of Nigeria’s team for the 1994 FIFA World Cup, added.
“I played, I got injured, I coached. We won two Olympic medals, and up till today, I did not get a handshake from anybody or from Nigeria. We don’t have a house. So many others have, but I, until this day, do not have a house. But it is a shame that someone who has done so much for this country can just be forgotten about. It is not fair. I think this is going to serve as a warning to Nigerians that you cannot leave your own out; you have to support them.”
He called on Nigerians to reconsider the treatment of athletes, pointing out the stark contrast in support offered by other countries.
“When you go to England, if you play one game for England, they will pay you £5000 every week until you die,” he said.
Expressing gratitude to those who stood by him during the challenging period, the 56-year-old thanked friends and supporters, including former Governor Wike and Mr. Okala, who provided legal assistance.