Tonga coach Mana ‘Otai has announced the outcome of a fund raising held in June to help “compensate” the Ikale Tahi players who were playing for the Pacific Nations Cup 2013.
Despite the overwhelming support for the national team at the time only four donors pitched in $644.85 for the players.
In his announcement today October 4, Otai said, “In June this year I asked for donations to help 'Ikale Tahi players while we were competing at the Pacific Nations Cup. I apologise for the long delay in letting you know of the outcome and I would like to thank Sisilia Ma'ilei Talia'uli and Tapu Tupou from Hawaii for their donation of $100USD. There was also an unknown donation of $100 Pa'anga on 21st June. Ikale Tahi staff and players donated $300+ Pa'anga too. So, as at 27/08/2013….the Ikale Tahi Players Association account balance was $644.85 Pa'anga. The players will decide what to do with the money soon. Once again, malo 'aupito for your help and may God continue to bless you all".
The fundraising was held shortly after the Tongan community in US donated thousands of US money, foods and clothes for the team while they were in the States as part of their PNC 2013 tour.
Otai held the quick fundraising after the Tonga Rugby Union revealed the team players would not be paid allowances. TRU normally paid allowance of $1,000 pa'anga a week for every player who represented the ʻIkale Tahi but there was no guarantee they would be paid allowances from time to time during their Ikale Tahi rugby sessions, TRU said.
The fundraisers expected every ʻIkale Tahi supporter to donate $1.00 each so they can pay all the 32 players allowances.
Public reaction to the situation however has been one of outrage and critics criticized TRU for failing to do its job and to find sponsorships for the team.
TRU split in April after five years of turmoil during which five chief executive officers and four presidents were sacked. Since then two rival groups claimed right to the 'Ikale Tahi.
It was unfortunate the infighting between these two groups gathered momentum during PNC Cup and Captain Nili Latu told Kaniva news "his captainship is heavily affected by upheavals within Tongan rugby".
The two groups finally held a meeting in July and as a result President 'Epeli Taione was still recognized as the TRU president but CEO 'Emeline Tuita was replaced by Mr. Fuka Kitekeiʻaho.