The strange case of Ali Dia: football’s most famous fraudster

Niamh Cassidy


Let us tell you the tale of a man called Ali Dia.

The Strange Case of Ali Dia: Football’s Most Famous Fraudster.

Ali Dia was a footballer. a manner of speaking, anyway.

Ali Dia had a famous cousin. George Weah had won the FIFA World Player of the Year in 1995. George had played with Ali at Paris St.Germain, and for Senegal, where they’d grown up. He could vouch for Ali.

George decided to make some phone calls. He called West Ham, Rotherham, Gillingham...would they like Ali Dia to play for their teams? They passed.
Then George called the manager of Southampton, Graeme Souness. Graeme said yes. He signed Ali Dia on a one-month contract.

Graeme Souness had never actually met Ali Dia. In fact, he’d never heard of him – or seen him play football – at all. But he was George Weah’s cousin! “When someone like that gives you a recommendation you tend to sit up and take notice”, said Graeme.

The other players at Southampton weren’t so sure. They’d seen Ali Dia during practice, and he didn’t seem that good.

But Ali Dia made the team anyway. On 23rd November 1996, he was sitting on the subs bench as Southampton played Leeds. After 32 minutes, Matt Le Tissier came off the pitch with an injury. This was Ali Dia’s time to shine.
It was a disaster.

“He ran around the pitch like Bambi on ice,” said Le Tissier. “It was very, very embarrassing to watch. We were like: ‘What’s this geezer doing? He’s hopeless.” Graeme took him off the pitch. He turned up for physio on Sunday morning. And then Ali Dia was never seen again.

It all became clear. Ali Dia wasn’t he cousin of FIFA World Player of the Year George Weah. It hadn’t been George Weah on the phone. Ali Dia wasn’t even that good at football!

Ali Dia had lied about his identity.

So, what’s the moral of this story?

You should always check that people are who they claim to be.

With World Cup season almost upon us, it’s never been more important to Know Your Customer. While you may not be signing international footballers, you will be signing new users to you platform. Lots of them.

And while for Souness, failing to verify the identity of his new player cost the club “a couple of grand for two weeks’ wages”, it could cost you a lot more.

Onfido’s Machine Learning-based Identity Verification automates your KYC & AML. We scale as you do. And we do it securely. While everyone else is looking at the 11 men on the pitch, we’ll keep an eye on the millions joining your platform.

To find out how Onfido can help you scale securely this World Cup Season, [contact us].


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