Ali Dia is a name known by many in the footballing community, but for not for the right reasons – here is how a Senegalese con-artist tricked his way into a Southampton Premier League squad!
Ali Dia and Southampton…
In November 1996, a struggling Southampton were scheduled to play Leeds United, a difficult fixture made worse by a massive injury problem for the club.
Because of the limited number of players they had available, an unknown trialist known as Ali Dia made his way onto the Southampton bench in preparation for this matchup.
Southampton manager, Graeme Souness had decided to take a punt on the 29-year-old, as the result of a phone call with a man claiming to be George Weah, World Footballer of the Year at the time.
The alleged Weah tipped Souness off regarding the talents of Ali Dia, leading to his inclusion on what would be a fateful day for Southampton.
Despite having reservations about actually including the Senegalese national in the action on the day, Souness was eventually forced to bring him on for Matt Le Tissier, who had picked up an injury.
It was at this point that Souness realised the extent of the hoodwinking that had gone into getting Ali Dia onto the pitch that day for Southampton.
The man who had been tipped by a clearly half-convincing George Weah impersonator came onto the pitch and put in a now infamous performance for the club.
To his credit, Dia did have one shot on goal set up for him, but he failed to beat the Leeds keeper.
Aside from this the conman, who claimed to have played with Paris Saint Germain as well score 2 goals for his national side days before joining Souness’ Southampton in training, left behind some woeful stats.
In between running around the pitch seemingly lost for the most part of his 43 minutes in action, Ali Dia recorded a 30% pass completion and had just 28 touches of the football – He never played another match for Southampton.
Leeds United won the match 2-0 and Dia’s luck was soon to run out.
A follow up call was soon made to George Weah, who claimed he had never made a call to Graeme Souness, nor had he heard of a player called Ali Dia.
This led to investigations into where this mystery Senegalese footballer had really come from, and how he had managed to con his way into Southampton’s squad.
It turned out that Dia’s claims of representing his national side were also false, however it was discovered that, contrary to his proposed CV, his former club had in fact been Blythe Spartans.
Blythe Spartans are a Tyneside club who play in the lower tiers of the English football system – as far away as could be imagined from Paris Saint Germain alongside George Weah!
Peter Harrison, manager of Blythe Spartans at the time of Ali Dia’s con work, couldn’t believe his eyes when he saw his player on the pitch for Southampton.
Ali Dia clearly knew when he had pushed his luck too far, and was out the door and never to be seen again after having his incredible con exposed.
His story was one that many journalists would have loved to have told, however for a long time the elusive baller was a ghost…
2016: The man himself has been found
In 2016, journalist Kelly Naqi from sports news media website Bleacher Report did some investigation and managed to track down the almost unreachable Dia.
Bleacher Report tracked him down using members of his family, and it was discovered that he had even used a different spelling of his name during his time at Southampton – Aly Dia was the true spelling.
Ali Dia, as he was known to the footballing world, was born and raised in Dakar, Senegal – one of the poorest countries in the world.
Bleacher Report were unable to get an interview with Ali Dia himself, but got some interesting answers from his Mother, who was happy to speak on behalf of her son.
She said that Dia had earned a Master of Business Administration from San Francisco in 2003, as well as the fact that he had a son named Simon, who played professional football in Thailand.
“[Weah] was a friend to my daughter, Sophie, living in France, Aly knew [Weah] through her.” said Ali Dia’s mother in regard to his relationship with George Weah.
As a result of this claim, 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, unsurprisingy for many, she never called back. And never answered to the two follow-up messages sent by Bleacher Report’s team.
Ali Dia backed his claims that he knew George Weah and that he did play for Paris Saint-Germain in 1986-88 and won the Paris cup with them when questioned about it following his brief stint with Southampton.
The proof is in the pudding so they say, and his career lives up to be no more than an entertaining story!
We do give Ali Dia his credit though – there aren’t many amongst us who wouldn’t take the chance to play in a Premier League match if it presented itself!