Siasia: I Have Never Fixed a Match in My Life
By Segun Odegbami
I wanted to know the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth. i believe in the spiritual dictum that the truth will set you free.
I traveled all the way to Abuja to meet him. I looked straight and deep into his eyes, and asked him:
Did you fix any match?
He responded without any hesitation, in a flurry of words that I shall only try to recall here. It was not an interview.
“The truth is that I did not, and I have never fixed any match
in my life. How are matches fixed? Throughout my career in football I never even heard about match fixing. Throughout my coaching career also, I never heard about it. So, how can I be involved?
“This whole thing is like a joke to me. The incident happened in 2009, some 10 years ago. It is only now that this matter has been raised that I am even trying to recall what happened.
“I was out of job. After my football career, the only work I could do is coach after obtaining my European A Iicense, even though in Europe, no one will engage you, being an African. It was only my country that eventually offered me a job in the junior national teams. I served to the best of my ability, winning two Olympic Bronze Medals, and a Silver medal at the FIFA Under-15 World Championship. I was ranked the 11th best coach in the
world by FIFA.
“But in 2009 I was out of a job. I
applied to several African countries
without success. One day, from nowhere, I received an email from someone l did not know, but who obviously was in the football business. He claimed he was a FlFA agent and was working with several national teams, players and coaches, and that was arranging friendly football matches around the world.
“He knew my background because he offered to get me a job in Australia. It did not completely come as a surprise to me because I played in Australia during my career one of a very few African players to do so.’
“I had enjoyed my playing days there and loved the country. So, when this unknown gentleman offered to get me a job as a coach in Australia, I jumped at it happily. The only challenge is that we would have to agree terms. That’s where the correspondences between us began and lasted a short while’.
“I did not know his exact relationship with the Australian club, and did not even think I should ask him. The offer was what mattered to me, because he
sought me out, and not me that looked for him. Of course, such an offer must come with working conditions to be discussed.
“For example, he wanted me to recruit some excellent African players to the club. The idea was to open up Australian football to the colour and exuberance that African players had brought to European football. He wanted as many as 6 such players that should get maximum playing time unless they are injured, or something like that. It is not completely out of place for agents to ask this of coaches, but it is the coaches that will ultimately be responsible for taking the decisions. The important thing was
for the team to win’.
“For someone looking for a coaching job, I did not think anything untoward about his condition, and was, therefore, not suspicious of anything. It was easy for me to accept his terms, after all he got me the job. I was certain that when I got there I would handle the situation.
“Then, I brought up my own
“I wanted a good salary, a house, a car and a generous winning bonus. After much haggling, his decision was that my demands were too stiff. We could not agree my terms. The conversation between us ended on that note. He never got back to me again. Nowhere and at no time did we discuss selling matches or fixing matches. I would not even know what to do. It never crossed my mind that could be his intention. I could not read his mind in his offer That’s how my hope to coach in Australia was dashed.
“Luckily, I got a new offer to coach the Super Eagles of Nigeria soon after For almost 10 years it didn’t even exist anywhere in my thoughts, until I heard in the news that FIFA banned me. I could not understand it. Even now it is still like a bad dream.”
That was Samson’s truth, told.
Nigerians should not hurriedly jump to judge him without hearing his side of the story, that’s why I am stating it here.
The issue with FIFA is different. They accused him of not responding to their email inviting him to clear the air on his correspondences with a man that had confessed to fixing matches, including helping Nigeria to qualify for the Worid Cup in 2010. No Nigerian has come up to clear the air on how he helped the country. No one has been accused. No one has been convicted. Is that not strange? Or is the country not interested to know?
Note that this is not what FIFA accused Samson of. They said he was involved in bribery and match fixing for an unnamed club that they have not named up till now in the Australian A-league.
Samson’s lawyers have been able to secure the opportunity to explain his side of the case and hopefully remove this ‘death sentence’ from around his neck.
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