Nigeria: Siasia's Dilemma

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(file photo)
27 January 2020

On August 14 this year, former Super Eagles coach, Samson Sisia will be 53 years old. Also 53 days from today (Sunday), the Bayelsa-born ex-international who has a life ban by FIFA hanging on his neck will have a date with the Court of Arbitration for Sports, CAS at the body's office on Avenue de Beaumont 2, 1012, Lausanne in Switzerland.

The new date was graciously granted him after his lawyers made a case that the earlier date in October last year was too close to allow him to raise the required defence fee put at a whopping 250,000 Euros, that is about N100 million.

After the shift in date, nothing much was heard about the case from Siasia until recently when he cried out to Nigerians to come to his aid by contributing as low as N500 to help him raise the fee. His calculation is that if 200,000 kind-hearted Nigerians could put down N500 each, the huge sum would be realised and he could get the desired hearing from CAS.

His appeal for assistance which was put via a video on social media has been generating so much argument for and against him. Those sympathetic to his plight have even called Nigerians "unpatriotic" and "inhuman" for not showing solidarity and contributing towards the 'save Siasia' cry.

Others who are obviously in the majority have questioned Siasia's appeal, querying whether he ever played or worked for Nigeria for free. They argued that he was handsomely rewarded as a player and paid all his entitlements as a coach and therefore he should be able to carry his cross alone.

One bitter Nigerian and critic, Ahmed Shuaibu Gara-Gombe, in saying that he has no sympathy for Siasia, argued that the Bayelsa-born football tactician must have some ugly past, otherwise all the players who have passed through him in the Flying Eagles, Olympic Eagles and the Super Eagles could have come together to assist their boss.

The only former football player who has shown real sympathy for Siasia is Chief Segun Odegbami who has consistently written on the FIFA ban and queried the rationale behind handing him a life ban as if he committed a capital offence.

That is the area I think Nigerians should be concerned about. Why life ban for a man who has not been tried and found guilty? The life ban is coming with a fine of $50,000, about N18 million. You ban a man for life, that he should not have anything to do with football again, the only thing he knows how to do to feed self and family and you ask him again to pay you N18million? Absolutely ridiculous.

But do you blame FIFA, it was Siasia that gave them the room to take that ridiculous decision. As they say, ignorance is no excuse in law, so Siasia cannot hold FIFA responsible for not checking his mails from the email he said he seldom used. If he knew that the said email was dormant or he hardly goes through it, did he present his new and functional email to bodies or individuals he had dealings with, knowing he might get important emails from them, more so since he was in football business?

Before Siasia, FIFA had equally banned another Nigerian, Dr Amos Adamu, a former colleague of theirs on the FIFA Executive Committee, who was found guilty of taking bribe. If Adamu, who was caught on camera committing the alleged crime, investigated and found guilty could be banned for only two years and fined only 10,000 Swiss Franc, about N4million, why then slam a life ban on Siasia with a heavy fine running into N18 million?

This is clearly an injustice which Chief Odegbami has frowned at. According to the former Green Eagles captain, even though "Samson did not respond to two email messages sent to him (by FIFA) to defend himself, "the facts (they have) do not tally with the alleged offense or the gravity of the conviction".

Odegbami concluded thus: "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".

All said and done, Siasia goofed by not responding to FIFA's invitation. It is now his word against theirs. He is in a serious dilemma now to raise N100m just to appear at CAS to clear his name. He is not even sure of what the outcome will be. If it doesn't go his way, his N100m will be gone and he will still pay FIFA another N18million as fine.

Despite what Nigerians feel about Siasia, they should remember he is one of us and at a time handled Nigerian football teams at different levels which brought so much joy to our homes with the exploits of his players.

They should pray he overcomes his present predicament and continue his normal life if they cannot help him raise the required defence fee at CAS. I believe that the Nigeria Football Federation should assist in pleading with FIFA to temper justice with mercy and give Siasia a benefit of the doubt that he really didn't see the invitation mail and give him another chance to defend himself.

If FIFA doesn't yield to giving Siasia a fresh chance to defend himself, they should not punish Siasia more than its officials who were actually caught taking a bribe and found guilty by an investigation panel. Otherwise, their ruling could be likened to a military kangaroo tribunal which finds a soldier who hears about a coup but fails to report it even though he never participated in it.

It will also go against its Fair Play slogan which it preaches everywhere and every day. It will go against its latest introduction to football, VAR, the Video Assistant Referee to clear all doubts if a referee's decision is seen not be correct or fair.

That is why football is said to be a dynamic game. Rules are made and changes are introduced from time to time to make it interesting not only to the participants, coaches and players but to the millions of fans who invest their money and emotions to watch it.

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