Ali Dia tells his side of the story after being found 20 years later!

Ali Dia tells his side of the story after being found 20 years later!

Known as the biggest hoaxer in football, Ali Dia became infamous after deceiving his way into playing in one Premier League game back in 1996 at the age of 31. That appearance came for Southampton after believing that Dia was a forward with a reputable CV.

However, his short cameo performance was so terrible that he obviously didn’t have the professional background he claimed to have had. Dia played so poorly that he was ranked at Number 1 in "The 50 worst footballers" in The Times newspaper.

Since his one-time Premier League appearance, the whereabouts of Dia has become something of a mystery, leaving many football fans from the 90s era wondering what happened to football's most famous playing conman. Fortunately, we have good news for those who are curious. In 2016, journalist Kelly Naqi from sports news media website Bleacher Report did some investigation and managed to track down Dia, and he came out with some interesting claims relating to his crazy and fascinating story.

 

ali dia-1

 

The story started back in November 1996. The then Southampton manager, Graeme Souness received a phone call from an individual claiming to George Weah who at the time was the FIFA World Player of the Year and a Ballon d’Or winner. The AC Milan striker recommended that Souness trial his cousin, a Senegalese international striker named Ali Dia. According to Weah, he and Dia played at Paris Saint-Germain together, and the latter had made 13 international appearances for Senegal. With those impressive stats, Souness was sold on the idea.

Rumour has it that Souness only watched Dia play in one five-a-side match, and he had initially granted him a one-month contract. He was assigned the number 33 shirt and due to injury problems at the club and made the bench in Southampton's game against Leeds United on 23 November 1996. Saints’ forward Matt Le Tissier sustained an injury after 32 minutes and Dia replaced him, getting his opportunity to impress. However, it was clear he was not up to Premier League standard, and he was substituted off in the 85th minute for Ken Monkou.

 

souness

 

Leeds won the match 2-0.

Reflecting on the whole fiasco, Le Tissier has remarked, "He ran around the pitch like Bambi on ice; -it was very embarrassing to watch."

 

matt le tissier

 

“It’s a very different world we were living in 25 years ago because we didn’t have a budget to go out and buy players, we would often get a lot of players in on trial. They would come in and train with us for a few days, and then you’d never see them again. Ali Dia was one of those players. I thought he’d won a competition or something!”

Souness released Dia after the game - just 14 days into his contract. He has remained relatively coy about the saga. It was not even mentioned Ali Dia in his book Souness: The Management Years, published in 1999.

Several rumours and stories surfaced about how Dia managed to blag his way into Southampton. The popular consensus is that a university friend made the call to Souness.

Ok, there was no internet is those days to check a player's history on Wikipedia but you would double-check the credibility of players coming in right?

Well evidently, Souness decided not to, but Dia still managed to find another team. But not another professional team - it was a non-league team Gateshead. He signed on till the end of the season but only lasted three months despite scoring on his debut. Dia played eight games and scored two goals during his time at the Northumberland club.

 

ali-dia-leeds-1

 

And then... he just completely disappeared. Rumours began to spiral surrounding the whereabouts of Dia. Many media and news outlets have tried to track him down to release his story. Many rumours of his whereabouts circulated. There was suggestions Dia had moved to Saudi Arabia or rural France. Some thought he was dead and there were even whispers that he was in hiding as a career criminal! 

It wasn't until 20 years later in 2016, we finally got answers. Bleacher Report managed to track him via his family, and it turns out his real name is Aly Dia, not Ali Dia. He was raised in Dieuppeul-Derkle, a suburb of Dakar, Senegal, one of the poorest countries in the world.

On meeting his mother, journalist Kelly Naqi gained an insight into her thoughts of on her son’s short stint at Southampton.

"It's just like putting a knife into an old injury because I forgot about this story already."

His mother explained that he earned a Master of Business Administration from San Francisco in 2003, and since then, he has worked in business in Qatar. He also has a son named Simon, a professional footballer for Thailand-based side Kasetsart FC.

When asked about what her son was like in school, she explained, "I never got a problem with him about his studies because he was a good student, but I knew that he loved football too much."

Dia’s mother further explained that her son was in fact known to George Weah, "[Weah] was a friend to my daughter, Sophie, living in France, Aly knew [Weah] through her.”

Kelly Naqi then contacted Sophie, who said, "Of course they know each other. Weah is a very good friend of mine. [George and I] still keep in touch.”

She continued, “I cannot give you [Weah's] phone number. First, I have to check with him and see if he'll agree. If so, I'll call you back." However, she never called back and never answered two follow-up messages.

Dia’s sister is willing to back some of her brother's claims, but when Naqi met with his son, he stated that he found the scandal hilarious, saying, "I know that he did it because I know him, I see his personality. I know that he is capable to [do] anything to succeed.

"Me, in reality, I don't give a f--k about it. It makes me laugh, actually. It's my dad; it's not me. Me, I have nothing to do with that," Simon remarked.

After speaking with his family, Ali Dia finally reached out to Kelly Naqi and thanked them for communicating with his family. The story resurfacing allowed him to be more open with them. He explained that his mother wanted him to focus on his studies rather than have a football career.

 

ali-dia-leeds-2

 

When asked about the media, Dia explained,...

"They have portrayed me as a liar, and that is bull. I did play for Paris Saint-Germain, in the second tier, in 1986-'88. And I helped win the Paris Cup, in either 1986 or 1987...it's been a while."

Dia explained that he was introduced to an African agent based in the UK named Bachrir Souleman in 1994, and it was this agent who got him the contract with Southampton. He says he trained for two months with Saints before playing in the Southampton match against Leeds United.

"I trained against the first team, on the reserve team, for two weeks," Dia said.

"[Southampton] knew my abilities. There was a final game before the Leeds game—11 on 11—and I scored two or three goals. I was on fire.”

"I earned the spot to be there. Souness said, 'You are in for tomorrow, be ready.' I was not expecting to start. Then the next thing you know, Le Tissier gets injured, and I go in. No warm-ups, I just go in."

He now has a new identity, and it is rumoured that he is living in London.

Dia has undoubtedly left a legacy in English football, whether you look at him as a villain or a cult hero. But what do you think of his claims?!

Back to blog

4 comments

is ali dia the best footballer? my friend said that ali dia is the best footballer, even better than mesi and cristano ronado

hihihihi

Thank you!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

ETV123XBOXY

Thanks for this, I have been really curious about his whereabouts. Finally I know.

Syed Luthfee

A debut game cannot be used as definateive proof of a player being any good, some take time to bed in, especially if in the top-flight. Regrdless of the poor checkson his ability, he was hardly going to turn around and tell Souness, I’m not ready and that he didn’t want to play.

Mike Brailsford

Leave a comment