Finding Ali Dia

The Man, the Myth...and Finally, the Truth

By Kelly Naqi / Illustration by Marcus Marritt

November 23, 2016

Bleacher Report

On Nov. 23, 1996, Ali Dia appeared as a substitute for Southampton in a Premier League match. Deemed out of his depth by his manager, Graeme Souness, he was substituted before full-time. Soon after, Dia was released by the club and accused of perpetrating the most sensational scam in football history.

In the two decades since, the legend of Ali Dia has grown with every telling. The man has become a punchline. His name has become synonymous with terrible performances, terrible transfer signings and sporting dishonesty.

But the real story of Ali Dia has never been told. And the man himself has never shared his version of events. Until now.

Having been labelled perhaps the greatest sporting con artist of them all, Ali Dia became a highly sought-after target for media outlets who wanted his story. Newspapers, magazines and filmmakers have tried their hardest, but no one could find him.

Was he, as some suggested, holed up in rural France?

Had he migrated to Saudi Arabia, as others claimed?

Perhaps he was a career criminal, one source told Bleacher Report, living in the shadows.

Or maybe he was dead, as the chatroom community hypothesized—leaving questions about his murky legacy to linger for eternity.

As it turns out, it's none of the above. The reports of Dia's demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Bleacher Report can reveal Ali Dia, who debuted so famously for Southampton 20 years ago, is alive and well. We've met his family. We've spoken to him. And the place he has chosen to call home these days may surprise you.

The three-story concrete house sits at the intersection of a narrow stone street and a dirt road. Potted plants frame the small entry outside the metal front door, and a large mound of dirt, cinderblocks and rubble take up most of the area in front. Hanging wires and debris dangle from the second-floor balcony, and beige paint peels from the building's facade.

But make no mistake, this home in Dieuppeul-Derkle, an affluent suburb in Dakar, Senegal, is posh by the standards of this nation. Fourteen million people inhabit this country, which is roughly the size of England and Scotland combined. The average annual income is 1.04 million Communaute Financiere Africaine, the equivalent of £1,363. Senegal is one of the poorest countries in the world.

My translator and bodyguard Cherif (pronounced "Shareef") approaches the house and rings the bell. Moments later, a cheerful woman in a pink and blue tunic with a matching head scarf opens the door.

"Nanga def," she says, greeting us in Wolof, a common language in Senegal.

"It means 'How are you?'" Cherif translates.

Cherif explains we are looking for a man named Ali Dia and that some people in the neighborhood told us his family once lived here 30 years ago. "Is this his house?"

"Yes," she answers, again in Wolof. "I am his mother. Please come inside."

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The exterior of Dia's childhood home in Dieuppeul-Derkle, Dakar. Photo by Kelly Naqi.

We walk into a spacious sitting area, with a black and white tile floor. Framed photos of Mecca and Islamic art adorn the walls. She invites us to sit on a green sectional sofa strewn with colorful, hand-embroidered pillows as she opens the back doors to reveal an outdoor space with more potted plants. Evening light spills inside.

Dia's mother, who asked not to be named in this story, disappears, then reemerges with three bottles of soda and a bottle of water and places them on the coffee table.

Cherif asks about her family. She says her husband is a retired diplomat who worked for the embassy in Dakar before being transferred to the Senegalese embassy in Paris. She is a retired school teacher. They have four daughters and two sons.

The son we are asking about is a businessman, she elaborates. He earned his Master of Business Administration from San Francisco State University in 2003. She shows us his diploma, still encased in its protective leather cover. After completing his education, Dia spent many years working in the business sector in Qatar.

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The school football pitch where Dia played as a child. Photo by Kelly Naqi.

She gets out her iPad and flips through pictures. Here is a photo of her son, holding his newborn daughter. And here is a family picture. See him there, with his second wife, Sowpoulo Ardo; and that's his son, Ousmane Simon Dia, from his first wife. He goes by his middle name, Simon, and he's 24 years old. He plays for Olympique Saint-Quentin's reserve team, less than two hours outside of Paris.

It's the same club his father played for when he was young. Simon classes himself as more of a forward than the striker his father was, however.

Cherif explains we'd like to talk about her son's professional football career—particularly about his time at Southampton.

Her posture stiffens as she processes the conversation's change of direction. Reaching for her wicker fan, she sweeps the stale air across her face, flicking her wrist from side to side.

How does talking about this make her feel, I ask.

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

Ali Dia is infamous. The well-worn story goes that he claimed to have played 13 internationals for Senegal and to be the cousin of former FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah.

Southampton manager Graeme Souness reportedly got a call from someone claiming to be Weah who vouched for "his cousin's" football credentials. The tale goes that Souness, happy to get the tip and keen to reinforce his squad, signed Dia to a 30-day contract without having ever seen him play in anything more than a five-a-side match.

And yet, here was Dia entering the field on Nov. 23, 1996, against Leeds United in a Premier League match.

He almost scored a goal but then floundered, badly, according to his manager. After 53 minutes of action, Souness subbed Dia out of the game. Teammate Matthew Le Tissier, the man Dia replaced, has since likened Dia's performance on the pitch to "Bambi on ice." Le Tissier told the Guardian that Dia showed up for treatment at the team facility the following day but then never showed his face again.

Slowly, details leaked and rumors swirled. There is no record of Dia playing for the Senegalese national team. Granted, he had played for some professional clubs in France, Finland and Germany, but some of those other teams Weah said Dia played for—like Paris Saint-Germain—were now being disputed.

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

Dia's mother on revisiting the story of her son playing for Southampton.

So was it actually Weah who spoke with Souness or not? When Weah was reportedly asked about it, he said he did not know who Dia was.

A legend was born, and this version of the story became the accepted truth. Dia was the ultimate con man. The football world was aghast at the cunning, the sheer nerve it took to hatch a plan like that and to fool a seasoned manager like Souness—a hardened football man who didn't suffer fools easily. 

"Ali Di-a, he's a li-ar, he's a li-ar," fans chanted as only English football fans can.

Of course, the line between villain and cult hero can be a blurred one. A replica of Dia's No. 33 Southampton jersey is still offered online for £79.99.

Dia, having been released in rapid time by Southampton, quietly finished the 1996-97 season with Gateshead in what was then the Football Conference. A year later, he fell off the radar.

In the intervening years, media outlets across the world have tried hard to find him, desperate to discover more about this mysterious figure and feed the insatiable interest in his tale. New details emerged in Steve Menary's 2015 story for Bleacher Report, but still the man himself remained hidden.

The first clue to tracking down Ali Dia was to ask the Football Association if they had record of him. It was a simple step, with a big payoff. Because, according to their files, Dia spells his first name "Aly" and not "Ali." He received clearance to play in England, under the name Aly Dia, on Sept. 17, 1996.

Media reports at the time, and all of the coverage since, have used the spelling "Ali." But his family says his name has always been spelled "Aly." FA records confirm Southampton finalised its contract with a player named Aly Dia on Nov. 22, 1996.

It should be noted Dia's last name is not pronounced "DIE-uh"—rather, it's "Jah," in one syllable.

All together now: Ah-Lee Jah.

Now to the George Weah confusion. Nobody seems to know where the story came from or how it came to be. Some reports speculate a friend of Dia's from Northumbria University called Souness pretending to be Weah; others suggest Dia himself called and feigned to be the Liberian footballer.

But think about it: Was it really that easy to get a Premier League manager's number, and get him on the phone, as recently as 1996? And would Souness—based solely on a voice claiming to be George Weah—commit to a month-long contract with a player he'd never heard of or seen play?

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Aly Dia's MBA certificate from San Francisco State University. Photo by Kelly Naqi.

Surely Souness, or someone on his staff, would have called at least one of the clubs Dia had supposedly played for to get an assessment of his abilities before signing him?

As Souness said at the time: "He played with George Weah at PSG, and last year he was playing in the second division in we’re having a look."

And yet a Guardian article, published on Nov. 22, quotes Souness in the wake of Southampton's 2-0 defeat to Leeds in 1996 as saying: "It just goes to show the state of things at the club at the moment that a player I have never even seen [Dia], let alone watched playing in a game, was able to play in the Premiership."

He doesn't address the controversy in his book, Souness: The Management Years, published in 1999, despite the fact it's arguably the most memorable event in his tenure with the Saints. And he's barely talked about it since. When Bleacher Report reached out to Souness, he declined to comment.

The accepted truth has always been that Weah didn't know Dia at all, but when Bleacher Report asked Dia's mother if her son knew the former AC Milan striker, she replied emphatically yes.

"[Weah] was a friend to my daughter, Sophie, living in France," she said. "Aly knew [Weah] through her."

When contacted by phone, Sophie said, "Of course they know each other. Weah is a very good friend of mine. [George and I] still keep in touch.'"

We asked Sophie if she would put us in touch with Weah directly.

"I cannot give you [Weah's] phone number," she said. "First, I have to check with him and see if he'll agree. If so, I'll call you back."

She never called back and didn't respond to two follow-up messages.

"Of course they know each other. Weah is a very good friend of mine. [George and I] still keep in touch."

Sophie Dia confirms her brother Aly knows George Weah.

One last thing on this topic: Dia said at the time his agent dealt with Southampton and that there must have been some miscommunication between them. Could it have been an agent who called Souness on Dia's behalf and made the assertions about Weah and Dia's football credentials?

The book Pulp Football: An Amazing Anthology of Real Football Stories You Simply Couldn't Make Up, claims Dia was represented by a Senegalese agent named Sidiba Alassana.

Bleacher Report contacted sources within Senegalese football circles who spanned 40 years—agents, former players, journalists, executives at a youth football academy and the president of the Senegalese Football Federation, Augustin Senghor. No one had heard of Alassana. But Senghor said he's well acquainted with how some agents operate in football.

"In this area, you have agents, but you [also] have very bad agents," he said. "Their motivation: it is only money, to get money, more and more and more. They sign, [the agent] receives his commission and after that, he disappears. Sometimes it is like that with African players. They are more victims than guilty."

Shortly after 7 p.m., Dia's mother returns to the sitting room. She has finished the Maghrib prayer—the fourth of five prayers performed daily by practicing Muslims—shortly after sunset.

We are joined by her husband, Ousmane, a slight man with a white beard. He wears a long white tunic with gold trim and sits beside his wife.

Cherif asks if we can record their comments on my iPhone. They agree, but Dia's mother wants to remain off-camera, and she scoots to the farthest end of the couch. Everyone laughs. I focus my phone on Dia's father and hit "record."

"Aly was a real footballer," Ousmane says enthusiastically. "Yes, yes, yes! I was proud of him, especially when he was about to score a goal in the Jubilee of Locotte football match in 1988. People were talking about him, and people were calling me from everywhere."

His wife reaches over to touch his arm. She's reminded of another story.

"When we were in France," she says, "you once came back from work, and you told me that Aly has scored today in a 'bicycle style.' Do you remember? He was then in Saint-Quentin. It's the first time I heard about the expression 'bicycle.'"

"Well, yes, yes, yes, he was a good player," Ousmane agrees.

Image title"He was clever on football," she continues.

"The proof: When he was playing in Dijon, once somebody told me, 'You know, football magazines, when they publish a story, the names of those players are in bold—those are the better players.' The name of 'Aly' was always in bold."

Ousmane remembers something else: "When [Aly] got his A level [high school equivalent] in France, he came and told [me], 'Dad, I want those Stan Smith shoes.' And I bought them for him."

"In the schools, in the streets, he was shining," Dia's mother recalls fondly.

What was it like for you to watch your son play football?

"I've never seen him play," she answers.

Why not?

"Because I wanted Aly to learn," she responds. "Like all mothers, I wanted him to study medicine when he got his A level."

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So you boycotted his games out of protest, because you thought he should be studying?

Yes, she nods silently.

That tension was always present, yet unspoken. Dia toggled between trying to please his mother and becoming the best footballer he possibly could.

"When he was about 15 years old, I was once asked to report to his school because Aly was late," she recalls. "In that school, if you come late, you will not get into class. When I arrived, I found him sitting at the football pitch."

She got him up, she says, and marched him straight back into school. She never asked him what happened or why he was at the field.

"I never got a problem with him about his studies because he was a good student," she says softly, "but I knew that he loved football too much."

Momar Dieng is the director of publication for Nouvel Hebdo, a political magazine in Dakar. A former middle school classmate and teammate of Dia's, Dieng remembers when he first learned about the scandal at Southampton.

"I read an article on the internet, and I saw the picture, and his name, and I said, 'I think I know this guy,'" Dieng recalls. "They mentioned his age, and I made the link—I knew he was the one."

Dieng says Dia was part of a group of six or seven friends.

"[Dia] was always well-dressed, his short-sleeve shirt always tucked in, and sandals," Dieng remembers.

During breaks or after school, Dieng says the group would buy peanuts or mangoes from the elder ladies selling them in the street and talk about European players like Michel Platini or players from the Netherlands like Arie Haan and Rob Rensenbrink.

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A classroom at Dia's school in Dieuppeul-Derkle. Photo by Kelly Naqi.

Dieng remembers something else.

"He was secretive," Dieng says. "He is someone who would never share his feelings. ... He never revealed what he had in his mind."

It was this secretive nature, Dieng adds, that made him think Dia could have been involved in misrepresenting his background to Southamption, although Dieng emphasizes he has no way of knowing if Dia did so. They haven't spoken, he says, since they were 15.

"I think he'd not like people to see him again," Dieng continues. "He would not like to be disturbed. He would like to have a calm corner and live there and have people forget about him."

Mady Toure is the president of Generation Foote, a football academy in Senegal, which helps bring young players to Europe. Among the Senegalese players Toure says he has helped place in the Premier League are West Ham United striker Diafra Sakho and Liverpool midfielder Sadio Mane.

Toure says he was 20 years old when he roomed with Dia, who was attending university full time. Toure played for Tonneau, a fourth-division club in France, and his uncle was the team's captain. Toure says he convinced his uncle to let Dia join the team.

"Aly was a good player," Toure says. "Aly liked to dance with the ball. He had good qualities, but he was never serious on training. He did not profit from his speed quality, and I always said it really was a waste; he would have been a great player. He loved life, going into town. He did not have enough chance to get rest."

The two grew close, and Dia confided to his roommate his desire to quit school and pursue becoming a professional footballer. The problem, Toure says, was Dia's parents, who wanted him to focus solely on university.

Image title"Aly told me he was hiding to his parents that he was playing football [with Toure at Tonneau] because his parents sent him to France to study," Toure recalls.

For two years, Dia continued to play low-level French football while simultaneously going to school, but his frustrations grew.

"Aly was already seeing himself as a professional footballer," Toure says. "When he was watching players on TV, he would say that these people are not better than him."

While contemplating his next move, Toure says, Dia rose early each day, running in the local forest.

"Aly liked to dance with the ball. He had good qualities, but he was never serious on training. He did not profit from his speed quality, and I always said it really was a waste; he would have been a great player. He loved life, going into town. He did not have enough chance to get rest."

Dia's former roommate Mady Toure.

"Every night after dinner, when drinking our tea, we were saying to each other, 'Hey, boy, the day we sign a professional contract will be very nice,'" he says. "Each of us were dreaming that.

"Aly always said that he would really like to get to Manchester United, sign a professional contract and be able to build a house for his mother."

That house would represent something else: vindication.

"Aly was dreaming to get into a professional club just to prove his parents wrong," Toure says. "By then, he was seeing his friends playing in French Ligue 1, like striker Etienne Mendy, and he wanted to be a star like [them] because he wanted people to talk about Aly."

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Mady Toure. Photo by Kelly Naqi.

At one point during the season, Toure says, Dia hatched a plan. Thinking he could do better, he asked his roommate for help, then left for the train station.

"He did not come for training [that day]," Toure says. "He had told me to play the game with him, and when I am asked by management where [Aly] is, I would say that he has gone.

"And when I said that to the managers, they intercepted him at the railway station and begged him to not go. They wanted him to know his real value. The coach was counting on him. So they increased his salary, and that moment, he knew he was an important element of the team. He came back and finished the season successfully."

Sometime later, Toure says, Dia had the conversation he longed to have with his parents. His dreams could no longer wait, and he was going to pursue a professional football career full-on.

"Aly always said that he would really like to get to Manchester United, sign a professional contract and be able to build a house for his mother."

Dia's former roommate Mady Toure.

"When we left him [in Paris, circa 1987] as a university student, we wanted him to continue his studies, for him to be a great intellectual," Ousmane recalls, laughing. "When he chose football as a profession, that surprised us. We never wanted him to become a footballer. To make me happy, he continued for two years at university. But then, he loved football, so we left him his choice.

"All the career of sportsmen is short; that is why I am afraid of it," Dia's mother adds. "That is why I never wanted him to play football. I preferred him to study...but, if God decides you should go in one path, you must do it."

"He believed that he could play at the highest level," Toure remembers. "He would always say, 'Inshallah ["God willing"]. If it pleases God. Inshallah.'"

"Are the mosquitoes bothering you?" Dia's mother asks, fanning herself in the sitting room.

They are not, Cherif answers for us.

Ousmane is having difficulty remembering the names of the teams his son played for.

"Dijon. Saint-Quentin. Was it Denmark?" he asks his wife. "A team in Newcastle?"

"No, you're mixing it up," she says.

"He had a knee injury," Ousmane recalls, although his wife thinks it was an injury to his groin area. At some point, there was an operation to repair the injury.

Image title"We're old," she reminds us. "Our memory is weak. We don't want to make a mistake."

They do remember Dia's career, "started to have shifts," after his injury, which occurred at some point before he got his break with Southampton.

Perhaps it was superstition, his culture, or simply something else, but Dia didn't tell his parents when he signed his contract with Southampton or when he was making his Premier League debut, they say.

"Aly would never talk to us about his football business," his mother says vehemently.

They learned about Dia's experience at Southampton completely by chance, well after it happened.

"Somebody told it to us," she remembers, "and then I went to the internet, and I saw it. But [Aly], he never told us about it. Even now, he never talked about it."

"We were very surprised when we have been informed of all this," Ousmane says. "When we read the story, there was a lot of invention within it. What we knew about him was not that. Maybe we would have got a lawyer and then fight, but there is no need. We are Muslims. When people say bad things about you, you should leave them and know that the truth will surely prevail one day."

I ask how it is possible that they never discussed something so significant, so traumatic, with their son. Cherif is reluctant to translate. Culturally, this follow-up question is pushy, and impolite. I implore Cherif to explain that our readers come from a different culture, and they'd be interested in the answer.

Image titleAfter a long pause, Dia's mother responds.

"It seems to us that we have been suffocated," she says, her face oozing pain. "He never told us, he never talked to us about it. We are like we have been suffocated. If you go to the internet, you will see it there, but I have never discussed it with anybody. I have not asked him.

"This affair, those who know him, maybe they could wash him [from the scandal], but I don't think we could do so."

"The reason why you came like this is to try to unveil the truth," Ousmane surmises. "Maybe it's God's decision, but if it was only left to us, we would have never talked about it again. It would have just been like, we bend down and somebody just beat us, and then we keep quiet. If you succeed to unveil the truth, it would be great."

He turns to his wife.

"Have you given her the contact [number] of Aly?" he asks.

"Yes," she replies.

"If you reach him, he will certainly tell you his version," he assures us.

"I will call him," she says. "For sure, he will react. We will call him and tell him that if you call him, let him answer you."

"Because somebody just came to make the truth unveiled about what happened to you, so you'd better talk to her," Ousmane promises he'll counsel.

"We will tell him about our meeting," she assures us.

She takes my number and agrees to meet us the following evening, around the same time, after they have spoken to Aly.

Simon Dia enters the building in Saint-Quentin, Picardy, France, two hours before his match against AS Marck. He warmly greets each person in the lobby—including vendors—with a handshake. For women, it's the customary European kiss on each cheek.

Dia spares a few minutes to speak with us and steps outside. When he's asked about his father's professional football career, his smile broadens widely.

"[About four years ago], I saw an anecdote [on the internet] that was quite funny," he recalls in French.

His head drops; he suddenly has trouble containing his laughter.

"Like, he called one of the coaches of a team, and he said that he was the cousin of George Weah," Dia says, "but it was not true."

He didn't spend much time with his father growing up, he continues, and they've never discussed the Southampton scandal. Still, Dia believes he knows what happened.

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Simon Dia pictured outside Saint-Quentin's stadium. Photo by Kelly Naqi.

Did his father lie to get on the team?

"Yes, yes, it's that," Dia says. "It's a crazy story. Yes, crazy, crazy.

"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."

When asked for an example of what he means, Dia laughs again, then demurs.

"There are things I cannot say, things that are not good—I cannot," he says. "I see only like when he speaks...he's [capable of] anything, actually. When he wants something, he is capable [of anything]. Yes, he's determined. He's determined."

How does it make him feel that his father is known for this?

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

Twenty-four hours after our first visit, we return to Dia's parents' home in Dakar. Cherif rings the bell. Dia's mother sticks her head out of a second-floor window and calls down in Wolof: "Hey, it's you! Let me come down."

Moments later, she swings open the front door. We enter, handing her a basket of fruit and a packet of dates, purchased from a stand a block away.

She thanks us but seems hesitant as she empties the fruit onto the coffee table. She tells Cherif she'll give us the basket back, but he tells her it's for her. She thanks us again and loads the fruit back inside.

We sit down, in the same places as we had the night before. It is tense. No one is talking. She is fanning her face, avoiding eye contact. I turn to Cherif and ask him to ask her if she was able to reach Aly last night.

She does not wait for Cherif to translate. She looks him in the eyes and answers animatedly.

"He says he does not want to talk anymore about that story," she says, her voice rising. "He does not want his name to be put in the media anymore. If you call him, he will not answer. What has been written has already been written, so it is not necessary for [him] now to answer about it."

"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."

Simon Dia, Aly Dia's son.

Still addressing only Cherif, she continues: "He is done with Southampton. He said, 'Let them believe what they want to believe. I do not have any problem with what happened, because I did what I should have done. I am confident about what happened because I know what I am capable of.'"

She stands up, suggesting it's time we leave, then escorts us through the front door.

Finally, she makes eye contact with me. She hugs me.

"Kelly, I'm sorry," she says, in surprisingly clear English.

Then, in Wolof, she reiterates her desire to protect her identity: "Please, don't use my name in your story."

There is one last thing to share from my conversations with Aly Dia's mother.

She told me Dia left Qatar a year or two ago, after his contract ran out. He has just started a one-month trial at a new company. His mother can't recall the company's name. She says Aly is hopeful it will lead to a permanent position.

Dia is trying now to forge a new identity, in a new country. How many people get a chance at a second narrative so close to the place where they became a national punchline?

Of all the places he could be, Aly Dia lives in London.

Two days after meeting with Simon Dia, my mobile rings.

"This is the man you have been searching for," the voice on the other end says.

It's him.

"Oh hello, Aly."

Dia laughs. "I figure you've gone to such an effort, I should reach out."

He is on his way to the airport for a business trip, he says, but wanted to say a few things before this story ran.

Firstly, he's grateful Bleacher Report talked to his parents and his son about his experience at Southampton, because it forced him, finally, to be open with them. In the past few days he has spoken to them for the first time about what happened.

"It has been hurtful for me," he says. "My mother is very shy, especially on this topic. She had just wanted me to focus on my studies. I had been getting all A's, and then I [stopped to] play football.

"I said, 'Mom, I haven't done anything wrong.'"

Dia then spoke with Simon, his only son. "It allowed me to have a frank conversation with [him]," he says, without elaborating.

"There's been a healing process about it."

Dia admits he has been upset by how he's been characterized by the media all these years. "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's been a while."

Dia says a friend introduced him to a UK-based, African agent by the name of Bachrir Souleman in 1994, and it was Souleman who arranged Dia's contract with Southampton. What's more, Dia says he trained with the Saints for a month-and-a-half before entering that Premier League match against Leeds United.

Contrary to reports, the team didn't just assess his football talent through observing him in five-a-side, the day before the game.

"They have portrayed me as a liar, and that is bull."

Aly Dia

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

Dia says people can think what they want about his performance in the game; he gave it his all, and he has no regrets.

"I have a clear conscience. God is going to be our judge."

With that, Dia says he has to go. And that he's open to talking more about his story, but right now he needs to focus on a big business deal he's trying to close, the potential of a new job and maybe moving his family from the UK to a new home in Asia.

Finally the man, the myth who is Aly Dia has spoken—20 years after being cast as football's greatest fraud.

"I have a clear conscience. God is going to be our judge."

Aly Dia

The story now has two sides and it's up to us to make a judgement on which we believe.

Was Dia just an innocent party following his dream and coming up short? Or did that dream drive him to deceive all around him and, as speculated ever since, trick his way onto the biggest stage for a Premier League debut that will never be forgotten?

This is Aly Dia we're talking about, of course. There is always more to follow.

All sources gathered firsthand unless otherwise stated. Graeme Souness was contacted by Bleacher Report but declined to comment. Paris Saint-Germain were contacted to validate Aly Dia's time playing for the club but have not yet responded. All enquiries with regard to the story should be directed to