Eddie Chikamhi Sports Reporter—
IT may be a time for festivities across the globe, but for a good number of local players there is nothing much to smile about amid revelations by the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe that today is set to be another bleak Christmas Day for those attached to clubs like CAPS United, Shabanie Mine and Hwange. FUZ revealed yesterday that many players had since approached their offices seeking mediation over unpaid dues.
The players have been at loggerheads with their employers this season over defaults in payments of salaries, bonuses and signing on fees.
FUZ secretary-general Paul Gundani told The Herald yesterday that they have received numerous complaints of late and many players have since resigned to having another Christmas with nothing special to give their families for all their sweat during the year.
“There is a big crisis. We have been approached by players from several teams, CAPS United being one of them. We have tried to write to them, but it appears they have been ignoring the correspondence so we are left with no choice but to take the matter to the Labour Court.
“We also had some players from Hwange who said they have not been paid their dues in the last six months. It’s a bad situation and I think these things have been worsened by Zifa because of their failure to implement the club licensing system,” said Gundani.
“This is one of the most effective ways we can end all these problems, but there is reluctance on the part of the administrators to implement.
“Even new clubs coming into the elite league should be thoroughly vetted to see if they can meet the minimum requirements.
“In my opinion, it is far much better to have a league of eight professional clubs where players are well catered for than to have numbers but with players living in such destitution.
“Recently, the Fifa executive met to discuss fines on clubs that fail to pay players on time and I was just wondering that if we cannot get the club licensing going then how much more of a burden will that be on our football?”
Gundani said most of the problems are emanating from the signing of the contracts. The issue of contracts has been a major bone of contention between the clubs and the players.
The former Warriors player accused the club administrators of not being sincere as they usually look to take advantage of an element of desperation on some of the players.
“Our advice to players has been very clear. They must not rush to agree on a contract without getting the financial guarantees. They are always sweet-talked into accepting contracts and given promises which most of the times are never fulfilled.
“So some of these clubs are always looking to take advantage of the players. They are not being honest in the negotiations. Most of the time they create a situation where a player gets desperate by making false promises and waiting until the close of the transfer window. By this time, the player will not have many options but to take the contract.
“Maybe what most of these players don’t know, or are afraid to do, is that it is legal to start negotiating for a new deal as early as six months before the expiry of the existing contract.
“You can even start talking to a prospective new employer and alert your club about that. But this usually is not possible here in Zimbabwe because once the club owners know about it they may decide to persecute a player by denying him salaries and other benefits.
“So I am saying let’s look at the players as the brand which makes football what it is. We must protect this brand by creating a conducive environment for them to perform to their maximum potential. This can be done simply by giving them what is due to them.
“In our case where we don’t have corporates, the players are the de facto sponsors of the clubs by their ability to bring people to the grounds and thereby attracting gate takings.
“But it boggles the mind to know that the player is the last to be considered from the gate takings. The club first pays the service providers and the office people and then the player is sometimes told there is no money, yet he is the one who is luring the people to the stadium.”
As the teams reflect on the 2014 season in which FUZ have also had bruising battles with such clubs like Highlanders over the Masimba Mambare case and Shabanie Mine over the squalid conditions their players were living in, pressure will also mount on Zifa to step up their act and align the national game with the current global trends.
Zifa, still operating on the 1996 rules and regulations have been found terribly wanting in their failure to assess the suitability of clubs through the new licensing guidelines that were unveiled by Fifa and Caf.
The failure to implement the licensing system has also meant that the majority of local clubs are operating in an amateurish manner with no proper structures, such as offices and medical personnel.
It is against this background that players and even the coaches, whose welfare is the least to be considered, have been the biggest victims.
Zifa also still owe the Warriors players who took part at the CHAN tournament and finished a credible fourth, earning the association US0 000 in prize money.
Although they made part payment, Zifa failed to fulfil their pledge to pay the outstanding bonuses and questions have been raised on whether the same association could then become stricter with defaulting clubs when they have been one of the culprits.