Remembering Ali Dia, the man who highhandedly conned a whole football club. Article by Temitope Adepoju (@theadepoju)

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Barely 24 hours after reverberating reports emerged that Italian club Lazio had been conned 2 Million Euros as the Rome – based club were looking to pay off their installments to Feyernoord over defender Stefan Vrij’s transfer, trolls, comments and opinions have followed the strange but true story but nothing beats the tale of a Senegalese who solely ‘tricked’ his way to play in the Premier League, his name – Ali Dia

Born 20th of August 1965 in the heart of Senegal, Dakar; Dia started playing football on the streets (like every other footballer on the continent). After 5 years in the local league , he moved to 3rd Tier League side, Beauvais even though Dia was ‘settled’ with life overseas, he was known for notoriously swapping clubs time after time. If you needed a barometer to check the striker’s ability to jump ship at every opportunity,check this, Ali Dia played for Dijon, La Rochelle, Saint-Quentin, Châteaubriant, FinnPa, PK-35, VfB Lübeck, Blyth Spartan in the space of just six years including playing for 3 clubs in the space of six months in 1995.

On 9 November 1996, he played his first and only game for Blyth Spartans in a Northern Premier League game against Boston United; may be it was that moment he thought he had enough of lower tier and wanted to make a step up in his career. He had a brilliant plan and a certain South Coast club in the Premier League was his victim. In October of 1996, a man who claimed to be George Weah put a call through to the then Southampton manager, Graeme Souness, ‘Weah’ claimed to have a cousin who played for Paris Saint Germain and was a very good striker who had had a decent number of caps for Liberia. I could imagine the Liverpool legend was climaxing whether to him receiving a call from one of the best player in the World at that time or the prospect of having someone who had George Weah’s gene in his club thinking he will be at least half as good as the Liberian legend if not better. Above all, Ali Dia was a free agent – will be bought at no cost at all but what the Saints boss didn’t deduce was that ‘awoof dey they run belle’.

Within a month, Southampton had gotten their man handing him the number 33 shirt and the fans where ready to see George Weah’s cousin as not many people were interested in his nomenclature, they just wanted the reputation to do the damage for their team at the Saint Mary’s. Ali Dia eventually had his chance in November against Leeds United; though he started from the bench and had to come on 20 minutes after kick off owing to Le Tissier’s hamstring injury. If the Matt Le Tissier’s injury had dampened the spirit in the stadium, wait till Ali Dia stepped in for him, the cacophonous roar that came from the Southampton faithfuls was deafening – what to come next after he came on was staggeringly shocking, ‘Weah’s cousin was so abysmal you had think he was seeing a Mitre match ball for the first time in his entire existence – he was so bad Graeme Souness had to take him off in the 85 minute, i guess the Welshman had die if he had seen another five minutes of Dia on the pitch. Two weeks into Dia’s contract, Southampton in hindsight began to make findings and realized they have been scammed all along. Dia’s contract was terminated even if some thought he should have faced the law for ’employment under false identity’ but ultimately the blot of opprobrium and embarrassment hovered around Southampton.

Last year, 21 years after the incident, Graeme Souness, trying to spellbind the Dia situation said ‘This is the reality, not the stories you’ve seen (in the media), in the very first training session, we knew he wasn’t the best and wasn’t going to be any good to us. The question is if he knew this why field him, I understand his avid strife to save his face and ego but the truth is Ali Dia was one of the biggest scam in World football history and Southampton under the tutelage of Graeme Souness was the compound ‘mugun’.