By Our Correspondent
Former Super Eagles coach, Samson Siasia, has admitted how terrible he feels being away from football.
Siasia was banned from all football activities for life in August 2019 by the world football body FIFA and fined $50,000 for agreeing to ‘the manipulation of matches’ for betting purposes.
According to FIFA, Siasia’s ban emanated from an extensive investigation into matches that Wilson Perumal attempted to fix.
But in 2021, after an appeal, his ban was reduced to five years by the Court of Arbitration for Sports which lapsed in August 2024 and the 1994 Africa Cup of Nations winner can’t wait to return to football.
“I thought I was going to be free by this year (2023) and I was so excited,” Siasia said in a radio interview on Kennis 104.1FM.
“But I had to look through the document that FIFA served me, and I found out that it was going to be next year.
“By next year, in August 2024, I will be free from the FIFA ban, and hopefully I will be back to football.
“Irrespective of what happened, I have learned my lessons, but FIFA, who initially gave me a life ban in football, could not prove anything wrong with what they claimed I did. But they had to reduce it to a five-year ban, and it will expire next year. I thank God for that.
“It has been terrible to be away from football for five years, but I am preparing myself to come back to football, so I have to prepare myself so I can start ‘running’ once I resume by next year.”
Siasia also recounted the ordeal his men’s U-23 team went through prior to the Rio 2016 Olympics.
The Nigerian team overcame several challenges to arrive Rio on matchday before defeating Japan 4-3 in their opening group game.
He said, “We were abandoned ahead of our opener (against Japan), but we came into Rio on the same day, played Japan the same day, and won our opener the same day by 4-3.
“The Japanese billionaire, Dr. Katsuya Takasu was so amazed and wanted to see the coach of the team and handed me a cheque for $200,000. “He also appreciated the team as a whole.”
Siasia also urged the country’s sports administrators to celebrate medal winners at major tournaments.
“My bronze medal is still in my house in the United States of America, but it’s so sad that Nigeria does not appreciate those who win laurels at the Olympics,” he continued.
“It must not be gold always, but once an athlete win either silver or bronze, they ought to be appreciated.
“Our bronze at the Rio Olympics was the only medal Nigeria won at that Olympics, but it was not celebrated.
“We were not received at the airport and no one appreciated us or talked about it. It’s shameful and not fair.
“We have to first celebrate the medals won before looking forward to winning another, so that the younger ones who see athletes being appreciated will look forward to winning for Nigeria, and that is how it should be,” Siasia said.
Siasia is the only Nigerian coach to have won two Olympic medals with the U-23 team at two different Olympics.
The 56-year-old won the silver with the dream team at Beijing 2008 and also won the bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympics.