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No apology: TTFA denies responsibility for Akeem controversy

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.

Photo: TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee (right) and general secretary Sheldon Phillips pose with the FIFA World Cup trophy last week. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: TTFA president Raymond Tim Kee (right) and general secretary Sheldon Phillips pose with the FIFA World Cup trophy last week.
(Courtesy Wired868)

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.

Photo: TTFA told football fans that all proceeds from the "I Support Akeem" tee-shirts would go to Akeem Adams.
Photo: TTFA told football fans that all proceeds from the “I Support Akeem” tee-shirts would go to Akeem Adams.

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.”

Photo: Ferencvarosi and Trinidad and Tobago left back Akeem Adams. (Courtesy www.fradi.hu)
Photo: Ferencvarosi and Trinidad and Tobago left back Akeem Adams.
(Courtesy www.fradi.hu)

“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.”

Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago and New Zealand football teams pose in Native Spirit "I support Akeem Adams" tee-shirts before kick off at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: The Trinidad and Tobago and New Zealand football teams pose in Native Spirit “I support Akeem Adams” tee-shirts before kick off at the Hasely Crawford Stadium in Port of Spain.
(Courtesy Wired868)

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.”

Photo: A Ferencvarosi player (left) and coach lead a tribute to fallen teammate Akeem Adams after the club's 4-1 triumph away to Diosgyor yesterday. (Courtesy Fradi.hu)
Photo: A Ferencvarosi player (left) and coach lead a tribute to fallen teammate Akeem Adams after the club’s 4-1 triumph away to Diosgyor yesterday.
(Courtesy Fradi.hu)

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.

About Lasana Liburd

Lasana Liburd
Lasana Liburd is the CEO and Editor at Wired868.com and a journalist with over 20 years experience at several Trinidad and Tobago and international publications including Play the Game, World Soccer, UK Guardian and the Trinidad Express.

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4 comments

  1. TTFF, please show the world that Trinidad and Tobago has class. This young man did us proud on the world stage and deserves the best…

  2. Lasana,
    Before we call for an apology could we not have the TTFA get the accounting details from Native Spirit, satisfy themselves to the accuracy and authenticity of the accounting and release these figures to the public?
    Sheldon Phillips is on record as saying that for anyone to seek a profit from the players sad situation would be unconscionable.
    I would hope therefore, that the figures released to the media by the TTFA can stand public scrutiny.
    This will allow the public to know, what the statement issued by Sean Fuentes really meant. In fairness to Sean,who I consider to be a decent person, he clearly meant the “net” proceeds, which is not an unreasonable position.
    However, the “net”in this particular curcumstance should be arrived at by simply deducting the cost of the T-Shirts & printing from the sales. One would expect that Native Spirit,in wanting to make a contribution to the cause, would be prepared to absorb the administrative costs.
    If these figures are released and the TTFA and Native Spirit can advise the public, that after reviewing the details of this initiative, the actual amount to go to the fund is ???? which truly represents the “net” profit to which Sean Fuentes referred.
    If this is done, the public will forgive the errors and poor communication of both parties to the public, and be satisfied that proper accountability and transparency for public funds has been forthcoming.
    Nothing else will be acceptable to the public.
    TTFA and Native Spirit, it is not too late, humble yourselves as the TTFA President says he wishes to be, and the public will have a whole new respect for your organizations.
    This process should take all of two days.

    • Perhaps the apology might be related to the other things outside of the final financial handover for Akeem. Perhaps. I respect that there will be different ways of looking at it and an apology is certainly not obligatory.