Kilrea United chairman Davy Shiels has revealed the club have been "overwhelmed and humbled" by the generosity of the public which has saved the village team after being hit with a Fifa fine of 10,000 Swiss francs.
In an emotional interview with the Belfast Telegraph, Shiels thanked all those who donated to a GoFundMe page set up to help the club, adding that the Coleraine and District League outfit now plan to assist Lisburn League youth side TW Braga, who were rocked by the same punishment from world football's governing body last month.
The Sunday Life broke the story at the weekend that on May 18 Fifa's Disciplinary Committee ordered Kilrea to pay almost £8,500 for fielding an unregistered player last season.
They were told that they had 30 days to pay the fine and with no right of appeal under Fifa regulations, they feared the club would go out of existence as the Co Londonderry side were voluntary run and had no funds.
There were passionate pleas to help from Coleraine striker Eoin Bradley, who trains the amateur club, and Larne owner Kenny Bruce which gave modest Kilrea officials the push to ask for donations.
Having set up the GoFundMe page late on Wednesday night they had surpassed their goal of £8,500 before yesterday afternoon and by 6pm incredibly had raised over £12,000.
Chairman Shiels said: "The response has been overwhelming and very humbling. People from every walk of life have donated and we want to thank everyone that has helped us."
Shiels added: “This means a lot to the people in the town and we will never forget it.
“It means we can pay the Fifa fine and survive.
“It is heart-warming that so many people wanted to help Kilrea United Football Club.
“We spoke with Eoin (Bradley) on Wednesday night and he told us about the Larne owner Kenny Bruce saying on Twitter that he was going to make a donation to ourselves and TW Braga.
“That’s what triggered us setting up a GoFundMe page.
“We really appreciated Kenny’s kind gesture and from there the reaction has been unreal.
“On Wednesday night I sat up to just before midnight and we had hit £3,000 and I swear to God there was a tear in my eye thinking about the generous nature of people.
“When I turned on my phone on Thursday morning there was message after message and call after call and people were even coming to my house to donate money to our club.
“We are grateful and thankful for everything.”
Fifa take a serious view on the registration of young players and international clearance. Kilrea had been punished by the all-powerful body for playing unregistered English teenager Pierce Hill-Worrall in the latter part of the 2018/2019 campaign. TW Braga were also stunned to land the same fine after Fifa investigated the registration of the club’s former forward from New York, 17-year-old Hassan Ayari who is now with Sheffield United and considered to have a bright future.
The Lisburn League outfit have set up their own GoFundMe page to help with their fine, which can be accessed here.
Shiels said: “We will do what we can to help TW Braga because, like us, they have found themselves in a difficult situation.
“We have gone over the target that we set so we will hold discussions within our club about giving a donation to TW Braga and also about giving money to a local charity.”