SINGAPORE: The people who knew Gaye Alassane describe him as a “nice guy” who was well-liked.
Born in Mali, he has called Singapore home for more than 20 years and received his Singapore citizenship in 2003.
During his time here, the former Gombak United player carved out a career in football, but his involvement in a global match-fixing syndicate proved to be his downfall.
On Thursday (Dec 7), the Ministry of Home Affairs announced that a naturalised citizen, believed to be Alassane, will be stripped of his Singapore citizenship due to his involvement in match-fixing.
He had been detained without trial in 2013, for a period of about two years, and has since been under Police Supervision Order.
One of his best friends in Singapore, former Warriors FC defender Bah Mamadou, said that the 43-year-old has been stressed out after finding himself in the news earlier today.
“I know him very well - and for a long time now - as we were born in the same country. He’s like a brother to me,” said Mamadou, who is now a youth coach at a private footballing academy. “Alassane is a nice guy, and everyone who knows him, knows that.”
“Everybody makes mistakes in life. After (Alassane) was released, he regretted his mistakes and has since become a changed person,” he added. “The man got punished … came out from detention, was living his life and then this news happened today.”
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia, Mamadou said that the latest development has been bothering his friend. “He’s feeling stressed out, and that was when he tried to call me today while I was doing coaching,” he said.
“After work today, I read the news and then I called him back. I told him to just go home and relax.”
A JOURNEYMAN PLAYING CAREER
Alassane’s career here pre-dates the start of the S-League, having played with local Premier League club Tiong Bahru CSC in 1994 when he was 19 years old. Among the journeyman’s other clubs in subsequent years are Wellington FC and Tampines, before he joined Gombak United in 2000 where he was mainly a reserve player.
Gombak United chairman John Yap said the club do not condone match fixing and related activities.
"We are vigilant and ensure players under our employment do not participate in such activities. As for this player, he was with us way back in around 1999 or 2000. We have no contact with him since and we are not aware of his activities after his contract ended," he said.
Yap described Alassane as a cheerful young man who got along well with his team mates.
After his S-League career, Alassane turned out for National Football League side Tampines 1951 and also played amateur football with Oxley City in the ESPZEN league.
He also ran the A-Stars Soccer Academy in Singapore before his arrest.
Upon his release from detention, Alassane is understood to have taken up coaching and had even found work at TWG Tea earlier this year.
“When he got a job at TWG, everybody was talking about his detention stint for what he did, which then eventually led to his sacking. The management there didn’t like it, even though he was working there for about three or four months,” said Mamadou, who added that his friend was let go from the company less than a month ago.
However, in response to Channel NewsAsia's queries, TWG said they had "no knowledge" of the ongoing case.
"Mr Alassane is no longer employed by TWG Tea since 9 Nov 2017. We have no knowledge of this case or his situation," said Maranda Barnes, co-founder of TWG.
Alassane had obtained his citizenship under the Family Ties Scheme in 2003 through his marriage to Singaporean Norie Abdul, a former Football Association of Singapore employee.
Channel NewsAsia understands that they have since divorced and have two children.
“(Alassane) has been in Singapore for more than 20 years, has got family to feed but he is now unemployed … and he has been faced with the same jobless situation, ever since,” said Mamadou.
“With the news coming out now, how is he going to feed his family like this?” he added.
A CHANGED MAN?
Alassane has found solace in religion and Mamadou believes his friend will someday find his feet in life once more. “After his police detention, Alassane has since repented and visits the mosque almost every day,” he said.
“He frequents Al-Falah mosque, especially during the fasting month, and has since became more pious.
“I think everyone deserves a second chance in life."
Speaking to Channel NewsAsia, Alassane said that the MHA announcement on his citizenship status came unexpectedly.
"I’m very shocked and surprised to hear this, and I don’t even know how to express myself now," he said. "I’ll need some time, please."
(Additional reporting by Kamini Devadass)