The tale of Samson Siasia and the importance of reading emails from FIFA

Samson Siasia Mike Egerton - PA Images via Getty Images

Former Nigeria coach Samson Siasia infamously hates anything to do with technology. So much so that even sending him an email has historically been an exercise in futility, and this, he says, has led to his FIFA lifetime ban for corruption.

The former Super Eagles player was handed the ban by FIFA last August for allegedly agreeing "to receive bribes in relation to the manipulation of matches", but says he never saw the emails from FIFA calling him to hearings.

The embattled coach, who has led not only the Nigerian senior side but also the Under-20s, tells ESPN that he has been forced to, ironically, set up a GoFundMe campaign online to pay for his legal fees as he looks to take his case to the Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS).

According to the GoFundMe page, the former international striker says he needs $250 000 to challenge the punishment, which came as part of FIFA's investigation into the infamous match fixer Wilson Raj Perumal.

FIFA says Siasia exchanged communication with Perumal about taking a job at an unnamed Australian club and agreed to look the other way while the players manipulated matches.

Siasia denies this, saying he only discussed sign on fees and wages, and that he did not have an opportunity to defend himself because he missed emails from FIFA's Adjudicatory body to appear during their hearings.

This meant he did not appear to defend himself during the hearings and was not even aware of the investigation until he heard about the ban at the same time as everyone else.

"I was surprised when I got a call telling me I had been banned. I think it was the NFF president [Amaju Pinnick] who called me," Siasia says.

"He asked if I had received any email from FIFA and I told him no."

It turned out that Siasia had simply missed those multiple emails, which is not surprising to anyone in Nigerian football circles.

Between 2010 and 2011, while he was Nigeria coach, I was the team Press Officer, and we had huge battles when he would not respond to, or even read, emails.

One of those arguments involved reading an analysis of the permutations that would lead to Nigeria qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations, and sharing that information with the team.

Siasia did not read the email. The players were not briefed, and with Nigeria leading 2-1 against Guinea and on track for qualification, defender Joseph Yobo, under the impression that the team needed another goal to ensure qualification, went upfield to try to secure a corner kick.

Guinea broke away on the counter attack, scored, and the Super Eagles were out of the 2012 Afcon before the opening ceremony.

This time, his career and livelihood are at stake, if his appeal is unsuccessful.

But what of the money being raised for the appeal? Two weeks after the page was launched, it has only raised $275 of the $250 000 target.

"Very disappointing," he says with a wry laugh. "But we must continue to press on. I have to fight to clear my name. After all, if I do not believe in my own innocence, how can others believe in me?"

But he says he's had no assistance from the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) or government, and very little support from former players and colleagues.

The officials in power strongly dispute this, in what is essentially a 'he said/he said' exchange.

"I reached out to the Presidency and was directed to the Minister of Sports. But he told me the ministry did not have the money," Siasia alleges.

Sports Minister Sunday Dare counters: "The Ministry has raised thousands of dollars for him. Ask him."

Lower down the rung, NFF President Pinnick told ESPN that the federation had gone out of its way to assist Siasia from the beginning.

"From the moment the news broke, I was the first to call him," Pinnick says, confirming what Siasia recounted.

"And we immediately offered to help by getting a lawyer to work with his team, analyze the situation and see how to help him prepare his defence.

"It was during that cooperation that we asked our lawyer to work with his lawyer and himself to come up with a budget and then we would see what NFF can pool and what we can get from other sources.

"I called some people in the Niger Delta region where he comes from and even risked a trip down there to meet some people who could help him raise money."

NFF Vice President Shehu Dikko adds: "Pinnick even called some Governors in the Niger Delta to assist and they agreed.

"We are also willing to go through some of our sponsors like Aiteo who have an oil well in Bayelsa.

"But these are not things that we should be talking about in public so we were surprised to hear that he has been 'abandoned'."

As for his former team-mates and charges, he says he has not had much luck there either: "They all seem to believe I am guilty and are keeping their distance. Nobody even wants to talk to me."

'Nobody' isn't quite accurate. Former Nigeria captain Segun Odegbami has offered help, as has recently retired Nigeria striker Odion Ighalo.

"Odion has been amazing," Siasia concedes. "He is a young man with a good heart and he has been very supportive, along with (Segun) Odegbami and Larry Izamoje."

Ighalo says he has offered help "because he was my coach and gave me the (under 20) captain's band in 2009 and I still played under him in the Super Eagles.

"I don't forget those who played a part in my life. And he's a good guy and I don't think he did what they have accused him of."

Tijani Babangida, who played with Siasia and is now head of the Nigeria Players Union, says the body has also been doing its bit to help.

"We wrote to his state governor asking for an appointment to see him together with Samson, a few ex -layers and some union members," Babangida says.

"It has been two months and we are yet to get a response. Perhaps the recent elections in Bayelsa may have cause the delay."

Despite the setbacks, Siasia is hopeful of raising the money ahead of his March 19 date at CAS.