SINGAPORE - Gaye Alassane, the former S-League footballer who is set to be stripped of his Singapore citizenship by the Ministry of Home Affairs as he was part of a global match-fixing syndicate, said he is shocked by the move.
Speaking to The Straits Times on Thursday (Dec 7), Alassane, who was served with a Notice of Proposed Deprivation of Citizenship under Article 133(1) of the Constitution in the morning, said: "I was shocked when I heard the news this morning, and of course I feel terrible about it.
"I'm lost, I don't know where my life is, I really don't know what to do now."
The 43-year-old, who was detained without trial in 2013 under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act, added: "I spent two years and three months in prison, and after I got out, I had to go and report to them once every month.
"I've never been in prison before that, and it was difficult."
Alassane first arrived in Singapore in 1993 from Malian club Batavia as a 19-year-old to play for Tiong Bahru FC in the now-defunct Singapore Premier League.
The defender later played for lower-tiered clubs Wellington FC and Tampines Rovers before a solitary season in the professional S-League with Gombak United in 2000.
The Mali-born footballer obtained his citizenship under the Family Ties Scheme in 2003 through marriage with a Singaporean. But it is believed that he is no longer married to the Singaporean.
In its statement, MHA said that "during his time as a Singapore citizen, this individual became an active and trusted member of an international match-fixing syndicate which was created in and took root in Singapore. The individual and his syndicate members used Singapore as a hub to conduct major global match-fixing activities".
It added that he was dealt with under the Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) Act "for having engaged in criminal activities that prejudiced the public safety, peace and good order of Singapore".
Alassane admitted to ST that he had done "those things" but insisted that he wanted to turn over a new leaf.
"I sat in prison, and all I could think about was my two children and what I've put them through; what I'm going through now and how I got here," he explained.
"I decided that I wanted to be a good man - I wanted to change.
"Yes, I did those things, but everybody make mistakes, no?
"I thought I paid for mine already. I don't know what to say now."
Alassane founded the A-Stars Soccer Academy in 2011. On its Facebook page, it says the academy serves "as a platform for the growth, development and specialization of the skills and talent of children and young adults in the world's greatest game - Football".
It added that he "has decided it was time to give back to the community and share his passion, knowledge and his wealth of experience to the youth of today through the A-Stars Soccer Academy program".
"I built my career, and I made my life in Singapore," he noted. "I've stopped everything to do with this kind of things (match-fixing), I did everything they asked me to do, even report to them once every month.
"But now I hear that they want to do this, I'm really lost."
Local football official R. Vengadasalam, who previously managed Wellington FC in the Semi-Pro League (the predecessor of the S-League), signed Alassane in 1995.
Venga told ST: "He was one of the first few Africans to play in Singapore. Back then, he was a very young man and a very fun-loving guy. He was very jovial and got along well with his team-mates."
Another local football official, who had previously managed Alassane, added: "He was a very average player. I never suspected that he was involved in match-fixing activities."
MHA added that Alassane may apply for his case to be referred to a Citizenship Committee of Inquiry (CCOI) within 21 days of being notified about the Notice of Proposed Deprivation. The CCOI will then hold an inquiry and submit a report to the Minister for Home Affairs, who will then decide whether to proceed to deprive Alassane of his Singapore citizenship.