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Saturday, August 27, 2016

Samson Siasia, accused of child trafficking


*Reveals what they did to his wife while he was away
for the Olympics
*Recalls the efforts of President Buhari through
Osibanjo, Lai ` Mohammed, Adeosun
*Wants money meant for the failed chartered flight to
be accounted for
Coach of the National U-23 team, Samson Siasia is
certainly not new to Nigerian football. His latest foray
where he led the team to win Nigeria’s only medal at
the just concluded Rio 2016 Olympic Games was not
the first time the former Super Eagles striker will be on
the saddle. Before now he had coached the same team
to the Beijing 2008 Olympic Games where he won the
silver medal after another silver medal in Under 20
World Cup in Holland. In this last assignment for the
Rio Olympics, the sports minister Solomon Dalung
called him names for taking the team to Atlanta for
preparation.
Before then the same minister publicly condemned him
for dropping some players who played in the African
Championship in Senegal. The minister wanted all
those who played in Senegal to be in Rio their fitness
level or injuries notwithstanding. The Nigeria Football
Federation owed him salaries running up to five
months. He never got the support he needed from the
ministry to the federation. In this interview with
Correspondent Jude Opara, Siasia speaks on his future
in Nigeria and many more. Excerpts.
Welcome from Rio Olympics. How does it feel?
It feels good because the end justifies the means. We
wanted the gold but we are still happy with the
bronze because it made Nigerians happy. The minister
accused you of child trafficking for taking the team to
Atlanta without his knowledge or consent.
How can I take a national team out of the country
without their knowledge of the NFF and the Sports
Ministry? I really don’t know were that was coming
from.We had the plan to travel from Atlanta to Brazil on
the 29th of July. But the agent who was handling that
did not get us the chartered flight or pay for our tickets,
but nothing actually happened and that was when I, on
my own, decided to contact an agent, Greg.
But the guy said he would not do anything until he saw
that the money was paid into his account. After three
days, the guy said he was no longer interested and
even told other operators not to deal with us that we
were not a serious people. Back to the camp in Atlanta.
How was it? The first 10 days was like a hell because
we had to struggle to pay for hotel accommodation and
feeding because the person, Bunmi, who opted to
assist us did not get the necessary support he
expected. But after the fist 10 days the Ministry came
through the NFF and paid for our bills. But we were
stranded in Atlanta because the money they said they
paid to one Poopola for us to travel never came and
nobody has heard anything about it.
What was your level of communication with the both
the NFF and the Ministry while in Atlanta?
No, nobody called me from the ministry. The Minister
was dealing with Mikel may be because he was the
captain of the Olympic team. But when we had the
plane issue, the Vice President called and I spoke with
him like two times, the Finance Minister called and
indeed the first person to call was the Minister for
Information, Lai Mohammed. I must say he did a nice
job to see how to solve our problem because I think the
President heard about our plight and instructed that
they should find a way to solver the problem.
They were, I believe, embarrassed because the issue
was even on CNN every time. However, the chartered
flight thing never worked out because the guy they
were discussing with called me and we tried to see how
to arrange the fight but there was no money sent to
him and so it didn’t work out too. So the option we had
was to arrive Rio the very day we were to play and that
could have resulted in a walk-over of our team.
We had a chartered 36-seater flight that was to take us
to arrive Rio by 2 o’clock while our game was at 9
o’clock. But the players were afraid of that flight
because it was very small and when we got to the
airport, Delta called thought the same Bunmi guy. In
fact, they were supposed to partner with Delta but I
don’t know what happened. When they heard of our
plight they called him to offer a big plane to fly us the
next day so as to arrive five hours before the match.
Indeed we were already at the airport to fly that small
plane which was paid for by a friend of mine, but when
the players heard that Delta was coming, they insisted
that we should watt for it. In fact they were almost
dying out of fear. When I called Mikel to tell him about
the development, he said ‘I beg, please let us wait for
tomorrow for the bigger plane which is safer and
better’. All the players were happy and excited that we
were not going to fly that small plane and perhaps that
is the reason they came out to play the way they did
with all their mind.
Indeed Delta did a great job. Even when the CBN 46
came to the hotel, we refused to tell them about our
problems because it was about Nigeria, even though
every thing was already in the public domain. Talking
to them would not have changed anything.
Now Delta said the cost of flying us was about
$250,000 dollars but that they were not charging us.
They said if we had it the money could be paid to any
charity organization of mine or Mikel but we have not
seen anything and that appears like another fraud. We
took pictures with Delta to promote them and thank
them for their support. I am telling you what actually
happened.
We are still waiting to see where the money that was
meant for us to fly to Brazil has gone to. Nobody has
said anything. The federal government sent the money
to the Nigeria Olympic Committee (NOC) and the NOC
said they sent the money to the airline in Florida which
up till now they have not received anything, even the
airline is planning to sue them for breach of contract
because they were supposed to pay some money to
them even if they were to cancel the arrangement. That
is even another issue. We don’t even know how they
are going to settle that.
The Minister categorically said he never knew where
you were and that you were engaging in human
trafficking, is that true?
(Laughs) I don’t know what he was talking about. When
I first heard about human trafficking and such stuff, I
was angry because the Minister knew that we were
going to Atlanta. If not that they stole my phone, I
would have shown to you his text message to me
before we travelled. That day the U-20 defeated us 3-2
in our last warm-up match, the Minister sent me a text
that I should come so that we can chat but when I went
they said he went to the Villa.
He knew exactly what was going on because there was
no way he would not know because the Olympic team
is statutorily under his control, it is his baby and that
has been the way it is. So I don’t understand why he
should say I was engaging in child trafficking. How did
you feel about that statement? As I said before I felt
very bad but later I didn’t want it to bother me because
I know it is not true and I had other more important
things to worry about than such comments.
Would you say that yours trip to Atlanta has been
justified?
Yes because they say that the end justifies the means
and if not for that it would have been very annoying
because after working very hard for two years without
anything to show for it would have been disastrous. It
would have been a waste of time and effort. I am
happy because in spite of all that we went through both
here at home and in Atlanta, this is the only team that
won a medal for the country.
It felt so good when the Nigerian team was called
alongside the Brazilian and German national teams
with the Nigerian flag hoisted there, that is what we
were talking about, putting Nigeria where so many
other countries didn’t have the chance to be and that is
why I say that these boys need to be commended for
what they did. This is something that money cannot
even buy. What did you really play for? We didn’t play
for money and in fact there was even no money to play
for. So what I told the boys was to ensure they played
for their country and for their pride and future so that
they could get better clubs because that is the only
thing to point to motivate them, given our situation.
What was it like in camp?
We were on and off the camp for two years with only
two training jerseys. You know everything was just
wrong from the beginning. The only good thing from
this camp is the fact that the boys really came out to
play and Mikel showed character and leadership
among the younger boys. We worked together to
ensure that we got something out of them.
It appears that the team has been disbanded because
there was no official reception and send forth of the
team, so what is the next thing for Samson Siasia?
Personally, I was not really surprised that they did not
welcome us because most of them were actually
waiting and praying for us to fail but we disappointed
them by winning that medal. But most sports loving
Nigerians who were not on the saddle came out on
their own and they were the ones that really
appreciated what we did.
Look at this way, if things were done properly, they
should have at least informed the Lagos State
government that the Olympic team was arriving so that
they could welcome us on behalf of the government but
nobody told them anything. There was no connection
from the Nigeria Football Federation (NFF) or the
Ministry of Sports. They knew we were coming. It was
only one staff of the ministry that was sent to take us
to hotel. What is your next step with the national team?
My next step is that I am done with Nigeria for now.
You can’t keep going to a place where they don’t
appreciate you. It does not worth it. Sometimes it is
not about the money but the approach. They seem not
to appreciate the sacrifices. I know how much I have
sacrificed since the team began camping two years
ago. How can you keep going to people who don’t
appreciate you? It does not make sense, so I am done
for now. I have to go somewhere else where they will
appreciate what I have done and what I can do and pay
me the respect that I deserve.
But many Nigerians out there still appreciate you.
I know and that is why I keep coming to do the dirty
jobs for them because of my numerous fans out there
but I can't just continue because those fans are not the
policy makers. How can you keep toiling for five
months without even your salary? Nothing has changed
in the last two years.
It has been from bad to worse, so we must sit down
and do something about the structure of Nigerian
football and by extension sports in general. It doesn't
worth it to work with the people running sports now in
Nigeria. From the Federation to the sports ministry.
They don't have it and will not give what they don't
have. It feels bad. It is like you already have
somewhere in mind. No, I don’t have any place in mind.
I just have to go an d rest for two months and while I
am resting, I will not be the one looking for where to
go. There are people who will be doing that. But for me
I am done with Nigeria until things change. Imagine
any time they have a problem, they will call on me to
come and help but they will use me and later dump me.
I have not started any team of the Super Eagles from
the beginning, not even one time. I want to thank them
very very much. Even before I returned from the
Olympics, the only car they gave me, they took it away
from my wife. That is just awesome. That is not how
to treat someone who was out there seeking glory for
the nation. Let them eat their national team. Are you
saying you will never come to work for Nigeria again?
No not now, I will not change my mind when the same
people are there doing the same thing over and over
again. If the right people come on board tomorrow then
I may reconsider my position because I am also a
Nigerian but truly, I will no longer work with these
people.
We are out of the AFCON, U-20 and U-17 teams have
all crashed out, what hope do we have to qualify for
the 2018 World Cup?
I wish the country well, but before we talk of qualifying
we must do the right thing. When we don’t do the right
thing and still want to qualify, then it does not work
that way. Yes we pray, but other countries also pray
and God is a fair God and I believe God will most likely
answer the prayer of the person who has worked and
prayed. To succeed you must plan and if you don’t plan
in any human endeavour, you have planed to fail.
But they have hired a new Coach and that is the first
step towards succeeding
Well they have hired a coach, I wish them well but what
time does he have to even know the players he intends
to work with? I sincerely pray that he qualifies us for
the World Cup.
But there is this talk out there that the reason they
usually go for foreign coaches is because you Nigerian
coaches always collect money to invite players to
camp or collect money from players.
That is cheep blackmail. No coach who knows his
onion will take money and take people who will not
assist him to deliver in a championship. We have seen
players like Kelechi Iheanacho graduate from the cadet
team. If they were taking money how could you
discover such good players who are doing well
outside?
Probably, they usually run for foreign coaches because
those are the ones that may give them cuts from their
salary, it is a cheep propaganda to destroy Nigerian
coaches. If they want to go for the foreign coaches, let
them just do that. Some of them that came before
what happened to them?
They ran away but we are here grounded because
this is our country. We want to do everything to see her
succeed. Even good or bad, we will return here because
it is our country, that's it. If they think we are taking
money to recruit these players, what money do these
players even have to give to any coach? Mention one
of them. Most of them are from poor families. But their
agents do pay If the agents succeed in bribing any
coach to take a player who is not good enough, then
that coach does not know what he is doing and he is
not worthy to be called a coach because there is no
amount of money that will make a bad player to
become a good player. How much can a coach get out
of these players and their agents?
Again it is two folds, the only reason that a coach may
accept to take money is when they don’t pay him for
months, and he has pressing problems, even as I insist
it is not a good reason. That brings us to the issue of
corruption. If you are working and they don’t pay you,
that is also corruption on their part.
So they are the architect of all these problems and if
they have seen one coach that has taken money, have
they confronted him with the player he was said to
have collected money from? If they have the fact let
them challenge the coach that this player said you took
money or that you didn't play him because he didn't
pay you. If you take such money, you are putting
yourself in a lot of problem because if the player is not
good he will affect your team and game plan, also if
you don’t play him he will talk because he has proof
that you took money from him. To me I will never take
money to play any player.
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