The Rio tale of Samson Siasia

September 2, 2016 Articles Leave a comment

Dr Katsuya Takasu, in the middle, with Mikel Obi on the left and Coach Samson Siasia on the right.

Samson Siasia, the former striker with Belgian club Lokeren and French Ligue One side, Nantes, is the only African football coach to have won two Olympic football medals – in 2008, in Beijing, China and  during the recently concluded games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Siasia (pictured to the right of Dr Katsuya Takasu, who’s in the middle, with Mikel John Obi on the left) who scored a memorable goal at the 1994 World Cup finals, chipping a ball past Argentina’s Sergio Goycochea, is also an African champion, winning the 1994 Cup of Nations in Tunisia.

In a 45-minute exclusive interview with me on Wednesday, 31st August, for the BBC World Service’s World Football programme, Siasia speaks frankly about his experience before and during the Rio Olympics, the continuous failure, by the Nigeria Football Federation, to pay his wages – for five months – and his feelings on the death of his former captain and friend Stephen Keshi.

Here are some interview excerpts – some of which are not contained in the edited version, aired on the programme:

1. On Stephen Keshi: “Stephen was a hero, a big personality and a brother. Hearing of his death is one of the biggest shocks I have had recently. I was on my way back from South Korea, when I heard that he had passed. I thought that was a big joke, until I got an assistant to confirm it to me. I am very sad about how he was treated in death. He certainly did not get the treatment he deserved, after all that he did for the country.”

2. On Solomon Dalung, Nigeria’s Sports Minister: “I was very surprised that he accused me of being a human trafficker (because he took the team for pre-Olympic training in Atlanta). He has apologised to me for making that statement. The minister has made some mistakes and needs to be guided. But I have decided to let what he said go…”

3. On being owed five months wages, by the Nigeria Football Federation: “If I had known that I will be in this situation, I would never have taken up this job. I have been relying on friends, in order to survive. There is no excuse for my being owed five months wages… My kids asks me, “Dad, how can you be working and they dont pay you?”

4. On Dr Katsuya Takasu: “This man came to our aid when we were in trouble. I must thank him. He is a wonderful human being. Where were our billionaires, like Aliko Dangote, when they must have heard that the team were in trouble? The report written by the NFF’s Integrity Officer (Dr Christian Emeruwa) on Dr Takasu (which alludes that he could be associated with match-fixing) is nonsense. He should have done a better job of checking him out.”

5. On his post-Olympic treatment: “I am disappointed by how I and my team has been treated, after being the only ones to bring a medal home for Nigeria. On getting back from Brazil, we were put up at Sheraton Hotel in Lagos for a night, after which everyone went their separate ways. No official ceremony, not even a handshake from the President. It was the same thing I experienced after winning the Silver medal at the 2008 Olympics. I don’t know whether it is my fate to be always treated this way.”

And there is a lot more! Listen to the BBC World Service’s World Football programme, right now…

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