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To Akeem with love: T&T Gov’t and private sector must up ante

Letter to the Editor:

I am writing to express my disappointment in the support offered so far to Akeem Adams, the 22-year-old national footballer who suffered a massive heart attack in Hungary, where he plays for Ferencvaros.

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

After the removal of his damaged heart, Akeem was placed in a coma while being fitted with an artificial heart. As Akeem battled for life, he developed circulatory problems, which lead to another life-saving operation and resulted in the removal of his left leg below the knee.

Akeem is still fighting to rebuild his strength in order to undergo a heart transplant.

Akeem’s club, Ferencvaros, has behaved impeccably, covering all medical costs and flying out Akeem’s mother, Ancilla, and brother, Akini, to Hungary. The club even went as far as to invite Akini, a goalkeeper with Point Fortin Civic, to train with its first team to maintain his fitness (but also, I suspect, to help relieve the stress of sitting by a hospitable bedside).

The support in Hungary for Akeem has been wonderful with supporters from other clubs, some of whom are fierce rivals of Ferencvaros, donating not just money but blood.

Photo: This unnamed donor is one of roughly 200 persons who donated blood to Akeem Adams in Budapest, since his heart attack.
Photo: This unnamed donor is one of roughly 200 persons who donated blood to Akeem Adams in Budapest, since his heart attack.

In contrast, what has Akeem’s home nation done to support him?

Certainly, the Trinidad and Tobago Football Association (TTFA) moved quickly to get behind their fallen warrior. General Secretary, Sheldon Phillips, rushed to announce that there would be special tee-shirts available and a section of Hasely Crawford Stadium would generate funds for Akeem at the Trinidad and Tobago versus New Zealand international game.

There has been controversy surrounding this fundraising effort, which saw $72,300 raised by TTFA. The questions concerning the tee-shirt sales will be dealt with elsewhere, but the effort to raise these funds should not be discounted. For who else has taken the time to support Akeem?

DIRECTV W Connection, one of Akeems’ former employers, donated their $10,000 prize money from the Pro League’s Digicel Charity Shield match. The SocaWarriors.net website, a gathering place for local and overseas T&T football supporters, presented a $12,000 cheque to Akeem’s agent, Dion Sosa, which was money raised by individual donations from across the globe.

Photo: SWO member and Central FC operations director Kevin Harrison (right) presents a $12,000 cheque to Dion Sosa, the local manager for Akeem Adams on Friday evening. (Courtesy Allan V. Crane/Wired868)
Photo: SWO member and Central FC operations director Kevin Harrison (right) presents a $12,000 cheque to Dion Sosa, the local manager for Akeem Adams on Friday evening.
(Courtesy Allan V. Crane/Wired868)

Central FC, Akeem’s last domestic club before his move to Hungary, will present a cheque this weekend for $15,000, which is money donated by the players from their First Citizens Cup winners’ bonus and matched by coach Terry Fenwick and the club management.

Central FC has also offered to create a salaried position with the club, funded by their main sponsor, SIS, for Akeem, once he returns to good health, and should he choose to accept it.

A trust fund has been created and there have been some individual donations plus promises from some corporate entities, but that’s it.

Just $110,000 raised for a young lad fighting for his life halfway across the globe.

He is our kinsman who represented us in over 100 youth international football matches, and seven full internationals; a young player on the cusp of becoming a regular in the senior team, yet he is receiving more support and, yes, more love from Hungarians who he has known for less than six months.

Photo: A Ferencvarosi player (left) and coach lead a tribute to fallen teammate Akeem Adams after a league match. (Courtesy Fradi.hu)
Photo: A Ferencvaros player (left) and coach Ricardo Moniz lead a tribute to fallen teammate Akeem Adams after a league match.
(Courtesy Fradi.hu)

Where is the government? Where is corporate Trinidad and Tobago?

We are very quick to reward winners, swamping them with cash and medals and houses and a plethora of freebies. And don’t get me wrong, those people who fly our flag high in foreign fields deserve to be rewarded. But there must be some balance.

We cannot tell our children that winning is all. Playing the game is the most important factor and winning is a bonus.

I don’t advocate prizes for coming last, but dedicating your life to the pursuit of excellence does deserve some recognition.

And when we have a fallen soldier, like Akeem, we must reach out.

It is shocking and perhaps distasteful to say this but, if Akeem had died that day, I’m betting we would have seen an outpouring of sympathy from politicians and businesses fighting to outdo the next with their commiserations and bottomless charity.

Well, Akeem ain’t dead, coz he’s a fighter. We built him that way, infused with the warrior spirit, fueled by soca, calypso and pan in his blood.

Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago international World Youth Cup defender Akeem Adams (left).
Photo: Former Trinidad and Tobago international World Youth Cup defender Akeem Adams (left).

But he needs help now.  So let’s see some action.

It doesn’t have to be money; get inventive!

Why hasn’t Digicel or bMobile sent Akeem’s family free call cards? How much must it be costing for the daily transatlantic phone calls, not just to pass news, but to maintain the ordinary day to day commitments of family life?

Has the Department of Health contacted the medical staff in Hungary? Can we provide blood? A donor heart?

Has anybody asked?

Who has visited Akeem in hospital to represent the Trinidad and Tobago government? Anyone?

There are dozens of Trini footballers living in Europe, many of them teammates of Akeem. Has the Ministry of Sport asked one of those players to visit Akeem and send our love? Why hasn’t one of our ambassadors in Europe made contact?

Photo: Sport Minister Anil Roberts (left) and TTFA president and Port of Spain mayor Raymond Tim Kee pose with the FIFA World Cup trophy. (Courtesy Wired868)
Photo: Sport Minister Anil Roberts (left) and TTFA president and Port of Spain mayor Raymond Tim Kee pose with the FIFA World Cup trophy.
(Courtesy Wired868)

What about our national pride and diplomacy? Surely our Prime Minister could find time to make a call to Hungarian President, János Áder, thanking him for his country’s love and support for Akeem?

Let us get off our butts, be creative and find ways to show the support of our nation for our fallen son. Let us show the world that we won’t abandon our warriors.

Akeem may be far away, but let him remain in our thoughts until we can bring him back home.

 

Editor’s Note: Fluminese playmaker Deco, a two-time UEFA Champions League winner with Porto and Barcelona, has auctioned his signed club shirt to raise funds for Akeem Adams.

The Brazil-born Deco has 75 caps for Portugal and played in two World Cups and two European Championships. He is also a former UEFA Club Footballer of the Year and the only player to win UEFA Midfielder of the Year for two different clubs.

AboutKevin Harrison

Kevin Harrison is an England-born marketing official who is employed as the Operations Director at Central FC. He was the North East Stars' Marketing Manager for the 2011/12 season while he previously worked as a field agent for the English Professional Footballers Association.

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5 comments

  1. Well, it’s been a week since I wrote this article and we’ve heard nothing from corporate T&T or the Government. Meanwhile, a Hungarian company has donated over TT$298,000 towards Akeem’s care.

    http://www.fradi.hu/en/football/first-team/news/gentle-offer/20131114/c/5484

    This morning FTC and Tigra Kft. held a joint press conference where a 10 million HUF subsidy to Akeem Adams has been announced. With the help of this money Akeem can start his further studies in Hungary.

    Vertán György (Tigra Kft. CEO): – Adams is a good-tempered, humble player and everyone took him in immediately. He has a pretty hard way to walk on in the future and that is why we would like to support him in both heeling and then, beginning his studies at one of the Hungarian universities. Go Akeem!

    Orosz Pál (FTC Labdarúgó Zrt. CEO): – Tigra Kft. has been our sponsor for a long time now and the firm offered its help right after Akeem’s tragedy. Today we would like to say thank you to everyone who stand by us: the blood donors, the Hungarian and Trinidad sport society, especially Újpest, Diósgyőr and the Brazilian Fluminense. We are also grateful for the medical staff of Városmajori Heart Clinic where the doctors fight every day for keeping Akeem alive. Akeem’s circulation is stable now with artificial heart and blood attenuation treatment. We can gladly say that Akeem has started his physiotherapy on the intensive-care unit.

    Nyíri Zoltán (FTC, Head Consultant): – I would like to say a few words on behalf of Kubatov Gábor (president of FTC): we are thankful for Tigra Kft.’s contribution to Akeem’s recovery. Nowadays, we can hear news only about the hard financial situation in the world and that is why we esteem this scholarship a lot. Hopefully, our relationship with Tigra Kft. stays up for long.

    Would we do this for a foreign footballer who fell ill here, when we haven’t supported one of our own?
    Shameful.

  2. KUDOS Mr. Harrison,

    You hit the nail on the head with so many of these points. Maybe I missed it, but I haven’t seen anyone of our politicians, administrators, sport commentators, ambassadors etc. publicly address some of these issues and ways of further assistance.

    You are a foreigner [adopted Trini by now] who owe’s us nothing, yet you took the time to craft an excellent article to show us ‘trinis’ and holders of office/influence how we could be more genuine, helpful and understanding. Sincere thanks!

  3. I am Very Happy that this was highlighted… I myself spoke to Mr Sheldon Phillips in regards to My Cousin Akeem Adams… and all I received from Mr Phillips was the Assurance of a few tickets(25) for my Family to attend the Friendly Football match which took place on October 16th between Trinidad and Tobago and New Zealand, and Transport to and from the Match… Whenever I try to reach out to TTFA in regards to additional help, as Mr Harrison has clearly highlighted, I was met with No Response.. I am Presently trying to Put a Few Fundraising Events together in New York along with other Family members, in order to raise Funds for Akeem… and Talks are being held with a Prosthetic Company in New Jersey, in order to obtain help from them for Him, in regards to His Leg. Monies collected will be used to assist with His Heart Transplant and the fitting for a Prosthetic Leg which he will be in need of … My Prayer is that the Government of Trinidad and Tobago would step in and do right by My Cousin, who has been an Ambassador for His Country..

    • Marva, while I sympathise greatly with your situation, my intention while writing this was to bring to the public’s attention that much more could be done by other agencies. TTFA are not a charitable or fundraising organisation. They have a small staff and even smaller funds. Sheldon Phillips was the first to publicly react in support of Akeem. Free tickets may not help Akeem, but what else could they offer? It has become fashionable to fire shots at TTFA, but I believe their efforts have been well intentioned and were far greater than anyone else could be bothered to do . Meanwhile, the people who should, and could make a real difference have hidden in the shadows while Phillips and co have been nailed to the wall. I think your personal efforts are great and I hope you will keep working hard on Akeem’s behalf. But when I see the $millions recently spent on the St Joseph election, it’s sad that some of that money and effort wasn’t directed towards Akeem.

  4. I agree with everything single thing that was said and I am very glad that the writer had the gumption to say it. Akeem and my son Wesley were teammates, they played football from since probably the under 15 national team to the Under 23, for Presentation College, San Fernando, Intercol, Big 4 (or 5)etc, but what mattered the most is that they were friends, CLOSE friends. My son is away at university studying now, but he called me a few weeks ago to tell me that the situation finally hit home and that was it. The rest of his day was gone because, he just couldn’ t stop crying for hours. I myself cry every time I think about Akeem.
    HE IS TRULY A WONDERFUL SOUL, and I agree a whole lot more should have been done and should continue to be done by the powers that be, so that Akeem, his mom Ancilla and Akini’s life can become as comfortable as possible in these trying times. Akeem we love you, stay strong my darling and we will be here for you when you get home. Take care honey, until……
    Pauline Douglas
    Mom of Footballer