SINGAPORE - A police report has been filed against one of Singapore's up-and-coming sports agents.
Football fan A. Abdul made the report on Sunday (July 21) after Hafidz Ja'afar failed to deliver 12 tickets for the International Champions Cup (ICC) matches last weekend.
The police confirmed to The Straits Times that a police report had been lodged against Hafidz and that investigations are ongoing.
Sacked by Swim Schooling
Hafidz is better known as the former spokesman for Olympic champion Joseph Schooling, assisting the Schooling family with media queries following the swimmer's stunning victory at the 2016 Rio Games. He was, until last week, working for his swim school - known as Swim Schooling - on a part-time basis. It is understood his employment was terminated last Friday (July 19).
The school put up a notice on its Facebook page on Wednesday, saying that Hafidz "is not authorised to transact any business, collect any monies or act in any capacity whatsoever on behalf of our company".
In a statement to ST, Schooling's representatives said Hafidz was sacked "when he could not be contacted despite several attempts". They added that "a police report has been made and we can't comment further".
"We will reach out to all Swim Schooling students and rectify any issues as best as we can. We are hopeful that the reputation of the school will not be affected. After all, Hafidz was just a small part of the administration team. Swim Schooling upholds the values we strongly believe in and we took action immediately upon learning something was amiss," added the statement.
'Tickets' never arrived
Abdul, who says he has known Hafidz for close to 20 years, had purchased tickets worth $596.60 from him back in April after the latter had reached out to him on Facebook, saying that he had discounted tickets for the match.
When there was no news about the tickets over the next few weeks, he reached out to Hafidz, who told him that the Singapore Sports Hub had not given him the tickets. The 37-year-old took his word for it, but suspicions arose when the tickets still had not arrived by late June.
On different occasions, Hafidz told him that he had been hospitalised for kidney stones, that he had received the tickets, but they were wrong and that he was on an overseas work trip.
Abdul was e-mailed the "tickets" only the day before the game between Manchester United and Inter Milan last Saturday, but received a rude shock when his ticket was rejected when he tried to enter the stadium on the day of the match.
"It was invalid and even the details were incorrect. It had my name on it and customer number, but apparently it belonged to somebody else, a Chinese person," he said. "The counter checked under Hafidz's phone number, but no tickets had been purchased under that."
He then tried calling Hafidz, but the calls went to voicemail and his WhatsApp account had been deregistered. Attempts to contact him through social media platforms also fell through.
Previously, Abdul had bought several other products like Oakley sunglasses and adidas apparel from Hafidz at discounted prices.
He said: "After all this, I have to assume the goods are fake. I wanted to call him to say if you want money, I can loan you, but don't scam me."
Sports Hub denial
According to a report in Today, Hafidz had told another man who claimed he had been scammed that "he had a contact at Sports Hub who could provide a 20 per cent discount off tickets to the Manchester United game".
When contacted, the Sports Hub denied this, telling ST: "The Singapore Sports Hub does not provide discounted tickets to staff for any event. We do not condone any ticket resale via non-authorised points of sale."
It urged the public to purchase tickets through its authorised sales channels - www.sportshubtix.sg, Sports Hub Tix hotline (3158-7888), Sports Hub Tix box office at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, SingPost outlets, The Star Performing Arts Centre box office, Scotts Square box office.
From corp comms to sports agent
Hafidz first came to media attention when he was a member of the Singapore Swimming Association's communications team. After Schooling's 2016 success, he acted as the principal channel of access to the swimmer, who was much sought after on his return from Brazil.
Hafidz subsequently left the SSA's fold to act as Schooling's spokesman.
In 2017, he founded sports agency Equatre Asia with Kevin Wong, a former colleague at the Singapore Sports School.
But Wong, who is the Singapore National Paralympic Council chairman and also president of the Singapore Disability Sports Council (SDSC), cut ties with Hafidz about a year and a half ago upon discovering that the latter was using the company invoice for personal projects.
He told ST: "It's disappointing that it has reached this stage... He had a promising career and I hope he figures out his life."
ST tried to contact Hafidz via his mobile number but only received a voicemail message saying the mailbox was full and "cannot accept new messages at this time".
Schooling remains 'focused'
The timing of the scandal is rather unfortunate for Schooling, who will be racing in the heats of his pet event, the 100m butterfly, on Friday morning.
However, his father Colin told ST that "everyone around him is protecting him so that he doesn't have to know and doesn't have to deal with this garbage" while a statement from his representatives insisted he was "focused on his remaining races".