Real story of Ali Dia – and mystery of where footballs biggest faker is now
He was the Senegalese footballer described as like 'Bambi on ice' who pulled off the biggest hoax in football by faking his way into a Premier League game.
Ali Dia has became infamous in world football after making one league appearance for Southampton way back in 1996.
Dia had been a substitute for the Saints and came onto the pitch after club legend Matthew Le Tissier got injured.
However, his short cameo performance was so bad that he obviously didn’t have the professional background he claimed to have had.
The 31-year-old was soon substituted and never played for the club again.
The story started back in November 1996 when Southampton manager Graeme Souness received a phone call from a person claiming to be George Weah, who was the FIFA World Player of the Year at the time and a Ballon d’Or winner.
The person claiming to be 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 once 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 November 23, 1996.
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 in the 85th minute for Ken Monkou. Leeds won the match 2-0.
Le Tissier was later to remark: "He ran around the pitch like Bambi on ice -it was very embarrassing to watch."
Le Tissier said that Dia showed up for treatment at the team facility the following day but then never showed his face again.
He revealed more details about Dia's Southampton appearance on the podcast, Quickly Kevin, Will he Score?
Le Tissier said: "The first time I saw him was when he turned up for training. We had heard a rumour that he was George Weah's cousin.
"His English wasn't very good. I remember seeing him play and thinking 'what's this player doing here.' I honestly thought he had won a competition in the local paper to come and play with us. He really wasn't very good."
Le Tissier talked about the moment he had to go off the pitch due to a calf strain to be replaced by Dia.
He added: "I remember seeing him on the touchline ready to replace me and thinking 'oh no.' There were good win bonuses at the time so I wasn't best pleased to see him come on. He was a headless chicken with poor positional sense."
Le Tissier said Dia went to see a club physio on the Sunday following the game and then simply "vanished."
Asked whether he questioned Souness about the decision to recruit Dia, Le Tissier joked: "I have never been brave enough to ask Graeme about it."
Souness had released Dia after the game – just 14 days into his contract. He has remained relatively coy about the saga. He never 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.
When Weah was reportedly asked about it, he said he did not know who Dia was.
What happened to Ali Dia after Southampton
After Dia's brief stay with Southampton, he managed to secure football at another club – non league Gateshead who were playing in the Football Conference at the time.
He played eight times for the Northumberland club scoring two goals including one on his debut.
Dia then studied business at Northumbria University in Newcastle, graduating in 2001.
According to reports he then received a Masters of Business Administration from San Francisco State University in 2003.
After finishing his education he is believed to have worked in the business sector in Qatar.
He is now believed to be living in London after the Bleacher Report managed to track him down. He has a son called Simon, a professional footballer for Thailand-based side Kasetsart FC.
Dia told Bleacher Report: "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.
"[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.”
Dia told Bleacher Report people can think what they want about his performance in the game and he has no regrets.
He added: "I have a clear conscience. God is going to be our judge."
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