Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) general secretary Sheldon Phillips said on Saturday that the football body would do some things differently in its fundraising effort for 22-year-old former two-time World Youth Cup player Akeem Adams.
But Phillips stopped short of apologising for the TTFA’s role in the controversy, which ignited on Thursday night when Wired868 and I95.5 FM revealed that only a quarter of the proceeds from Native Spirit’s “I Support Akeem” tee-shirts will go to Adams.
Adams, who joined Hungarian team Ferencvarosi in August, is in ICU at the Varosmajori Heart Clinic in Budapest after suffering a massive heart attack in late September. The Point Fortin native had his left leg amputated last month and is still not strong enough for a heart transplant.
The TTFA told the public, via a press release on October 6, that all proceeds raised through the sale of the $100 tee-shirts would go to the former Presentation College (San Fernando) schoolboy.
But, when it emerged that only $25 per shirt would be given to Adams, TTFA press officer Shaun Fuentes tried to distance himself from the scandal and told I95.5 FM host Andre Baptiste and Wired868 that he never said all proceeds were due to the player.
Fuentes, according to Phillips, supposedly told his employer that he had only made the “error” on his Facebook page, which he later corrected.
However, Wired868 subsequently proved Fuentes was incorrect and a TTFA release to the media, on 6 October 2013, stated that the full $100 would go the player. No TTFA release was ever made to atone for that error.
Despite seeing a copy of the TTFA release on Saturday, Phillips still declined to apologise and asked for more time to choose his response.
“If a press release was sent out, then it should have been corrected via a press release,” said Phillips. “If it turns out that a correction wasn’t made and we should have made it then we will certainly make a statement about that.”
Phillips was non-committal too when asked if the TTFA should have insisted on a complete cost breakdown from Native Spirit and assessed the viability of the “I Support Akeem” venture before it committed to the project.
“We were in the middle of ramping up for the (New Zealand) game and we felt we would address the issue after the match and analyse it in more detail then,” said Phillips. “Hindsight is 20/20… When we initially discussed the idea, no one knew how many shirts would be printed up and how much the costs were going to be. And we had the added strain of getting a game on within 10 days.
“If we had a bit more time to plan, I think things would have been done differently. But this is the context of the environment in which we were working (at the time).”
However, “Soca Warriors” manager David Muhammad slammed the TTFA’s “Heart of a Warrior” donation as “disrespectful to the Adams family.”
“It is a shame that so much public love, concern, support and best wishes poured out from the public in the form of the sales of maybe 1000s of T-shirts at $100 each,” stated Muhammad, on his Facebook page, “and all that could have been given to the family was under TT$73,000. It is also disrespectful to the Adams family for so much money to be raised in their son’s name and for capitalist greed to take priority over sincere generosity…
“The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) explained three levels of charity… but this seems to be a lower fourth level where exploitation of the people’s good will took place and then a portion of an excess was handed down which would almost equate to leftovers off a table…
“If I had known that only $25 per jersey was going to Akeem I would have never bought as many T-shirts as I did.”
There is no proof that the TTFA or Native Spirit pocketed funds promised to Adams—if one accepts the TTFA release as an error—and Phillips urged members of the public to reserve judgment until Native Spirit managing director Bruce Kaufman produces a detailed breakdown of costs, which is expected on Monday.
“If it turns out that the cost breakdown doesn’t stand up with the figures that they showed us before, that is something they will have to answer to,” said Phillips. “We are not in the tee-shirt business. This was a Native Spirit initiative…
“People may see that as making excuses but that is the reality… It is very, very important to convey that there is no sort of skullduggery in our approach.
“No one is trying to make a buck off Akeem; that would be unconscionable.”
The “I Support Akeem” venture was not the only aspect of the TTFA’s “Heart of a Warrior” foundation that came in for public criticism.
Patrons who purchased tickets for the “Akeem Adams Section” of the Hasely Crawford Stadium, which was located in the uncovered stands, complained that they had problems accessing the area they paid for since it was not roped off as promised. Among other things, this made it impossible to gauge just how people were in that section.
The bathrooms in the uncovered stands were also locked.
In a previous interview with Wired868, Fuentes said that the TTFA would do a better job in the future. But, at the same time, he suggested that most patrons were simply happy to contribute while the bathrooms were not the football body’s responsibility.
“The bathrooms were the responsibility of the stadium management but we will still ensure these matters are ironed out for the next event,” said Fuentes. “Initially the Adams section was not properly roped off and that presented a challenge as most of the early patrons (in the uncovered stands) were able to access that central point…
“We heard of the few complaints but, while there were patrons who were hoping to be in a separate section to the rest of the uncovered section, the majority appeared pleased to have made their contribution towards the fund.”
Thus far, Adam’s family has received an unspecified donation from his former school, Presentation College (San Fernando) while, on Friday, the Soca Warriors Online football fans’ site handed over a $12,000 cheque for the “Soca Warrior” to his local manager, Dion Sosa.
Local Pro League team DIRECTV W Connection also offered its Digicel Charity Shield winnings of $10,000 to Adams although the Pro League has not yet transferred the money.
Well-wishers who want to donate money directly to the player can do so by walking into any RBC branch and depositing money for Ancilla Dick at account number #100085172658914.
Editor’s Note: The Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) has advised that it did receive a full financial breakdown from Native Spirit with regards to the “I Support Akeem” venture and the football body will make a statement shortly.