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Agony of Zim’s ‘pro’ footballers

THE promise of fame and fortune has fuelled many a youngster’s dream of becoming professional footballers.

BY DANIEL NHAKANISO

FUZ president Desmond Maringwa

FUZ president Desmond Maringwa

The realisation of such dreams is epitomised by the fortune made by the likes of Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo, Barcelona’s Lionel Messi and Manchester United’s Paul Pogba, whose skills have made them household names and landed them some of the most lucrative contracts football has ever seen.

Those footballers are handsomely rewarded for being the best players in their respective leagues in Europe.

The same, however, cannot be said for those who ply their trade in Zimbabwe’s top flight league. The shocking wages said to be earned by our footballers in the PSL make a mockery of professional football.

A recent snap survey by Standardsport has shown that soccer is not a ticket to good life in Zimbabwe at all.
The best-paying local clubs such as Harare City and FC Platinum pay an average salary of $1 000 per month, with winning bonuses of around $400.

Most of the local clubs, however, are far below those figures while some have failed to honour their meagre obligations altogether.

This penury has led to the unprecedented exodus of players to other countries where, due to the better investment by local corporates into football, the remuneration is considerably better.

At the beginning of this year, five Zimbabwean players made the great trek into the Tanzanian top-flight football league.

After former Dynamos and Warriors midfielder Justice Majabvi joined Simba SC last year, it appears he paved the way for the ex-FC Platinum duo of Donald Ngoma and Thabani Kamusoko to look up to Tanzania for greener pastures.

Ngoma and Kamusoko joined Young Africans where they both became instant hits with the former topping the top goal-scorers chats in that country.

At Yanga, as Young Africans are affectionately known, they have now teamed up with former FC Platinum Zambian colleague Obrey Chirwa who signed for the giants last month.

Recently, former Warriors captain Method Mwanjali, Highlanders’ Bruce Kangwa, Harare City’s Francisco Zekumbawire and Brett Amidu of Dynamos also joined the great trek to Tanzania.

This movement of local players to East Africa is clearly motivated by money and some analysts are now labelling the players “economic refugees”.

Last week players at Castle Lager Premier Soccer League club Hwange FC went on strike over unpaid winning bonuses and signing on fees stretching for more than a year.

The Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ), which is led by the long-serving Dynamos midfielder and former Zimbabwe national side player Desmond Maringwa, announced the strike last Tuesday morning after Hwange had not reacted to various urgent requests to pay its players.

The cash-strapped premier league club’s management had also reportedly not responded to letters written by the union resulting in the strike which FUZ said was long overdue.

“Players’ contracts have not been respected for almost two years”, Maringwa said.

“The players have been very patient and loyal over this stressful period without any sign of improvement.”

”Our members have suffered financially, physically and emotionally for a very long time. The players are struggling to survive. Some cannot pay their children’s school fees,” he said.

FIFPro, the world union of soccer players, representing 65 000 professional footballers later released a statement throwing its full support behind the players’ strike.

The Dutch-based organisation also urged the club and the Premier Soccer League and the Zimbabwean Football Association to take action.

“Two years without payment is appalling”, says FIFPro secretary general Theo van Seggelen.

“It is about time that Hwange FC and other clubs in Zimbabwe and Africa realise that in professional football it is mandatory to pay players and respect their contracts.”

“A club which does not pay its players, does not belong in professional football.”

“It is up to the leagues and the local federations to monitor their clubs and to prevent situations such as these from occurring.”

The current season has been blighted by industrial action at Caps United (several times), Border Strikers, Mutare City Rovers as well as Bulawayo City over outstanding salaries and signing on fees.

CAPS United have been the hardest hit, with its players causing a delay to their Chibuku Super Cup first round home tie against Tsholotsho last month in protest over unpaid salaries and bonuses.

Two months earlier, they threatened to boycott an away league match against Hwange before travelling late at night on the eve of the game after their salaries had been deposited into their accounts.

Yet despite all the problems, these players have continued to squeeze out every last ounce of ability and commitment, with the Harare giants still in contention for their first Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title since 2005.

Traditional giants Highlanders and Dynamos have been spared the blushes as they are both bankrolled by a local bank BancABC which pays the salaries for their players and members of the technical staff.

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