THE recent ruling by FIFA ordering financially-troubled local football giants Dynamos to pay compensation to Cameroonian player Christian Joel Epoupa for alleged breach of contract must not be treated in isolation, but should serve as a big lesson to all Zimbabwean sports entities.
Dynamos were given 30 days within which to pay the expatriate forward about US$17 000 or risk facing unpleasant sanctions that may include relegation from the Premier Soccer League.
The money has to be paid inside 30 days from the day they received the judgment on Monday.
Ordinarily for a club of Dynamos stature, it should be a penalty they ought to deal with without much worry.
But Dynamos have been surviving from hand to mouth, outside the sponsorship they get from telecommunications giant NetOne and are likely to find this a tall order, more so that the payment has to be made in hard currency, which is scarce in the country.
It is no secret Dynamos perpetually struggle to keep afloat and fears are that the worst could happen and FIFA have a history of being unflinching with their judgments.
The Dynamos leadership also ought to take some flak for their failure to learn hard lessons from the way Zimbabwe’s Warriors were kicked out of the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup by FIFA after ZIFA failed to pay Brazilian coach Valinhos his outstanding salaries amounting to US$60 000.
Another FIFA expulsion was on the cards from the 2022 World Cup until ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa moved swiftly to pay off Belgian coach Tom Saintfiet US$180 000, just days after coming into office in 2015.
Dynamos got themselves into this mess with FIFA after ignoring dialogue with the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ), the labour body that represents the interests of players in the country.
When Epoupa and his handlers needed to iron out issues amicably with the then club executive led by Kenny Mubaiwa, they played hide and seek.
Now as the other PSL teams enjoy the festive holidays during this off-season break, the new leadership at Dynamos will definitely be on their toes trying to find ways to save the club from further punishment.
That can be averted by paying the US$17 000 first.
We urge ZIFA and the Premier Soccer League to jointly help eradicate what appears to be a worrying trend of rampant contract breaches in the country’s biggest sport.
Clubs have at times often got away with it because players and coaches are either ignorant of their rights or do not know where to take their cases for redress.
FUZ have dealt with several such cases.
Sadly, the clubs have been unresponsive in many of the cases and in the end the players have suffered in silence.
But the scenario is different when dealing with foreign coaches and players, and Dynamos should have known better — fellow giants Highlanders travelled that route unsuccessfully with Zambian Kelvin Kaindu when he was still their player.
Epoupa took the right course of action by pursuing the matter with FIFA, just like what former Zimbabwe international Edward Sadomba did when he won a $450 000 settlement against Al Ahli Tripoli of Libya or in the case of Matthew Rusike versus Club Africain of Tunisia who were ordered to fork out $170 000 after his contract was violated.
Terms and conditions of a contract in sport ought to be respected, bearing in mind that it is legally binding.
This has to be repeated to all clubs, players and associations to avoid such trouble in the future.
It’s not only in football where the issue of contract breaches has been a menace.
Even in cricket, there has been an unpleasant spat between former national team coach Heath Streak and Zimbabwe Cricket.
The stand-off is likely to have an ugly end with wide repercussions on the domestic sports scene.
Streak has applied for the liquidation of the debt-ridden organisation after ZC failed to pay his outstanding dues for the services he rendered in the last two years.
The ex-Zimbabwe international was sacked from his position along with his entire backroom staff in April following the failure by the Chevrons to qualify for next year’s ICC World Cup.
The former national team captain by then still had a few months remaining on his two-year contract, but ZC were forced to wield the axe because he had failed on his mandate to lead the team to the global cricket jamboree set for England next year.
Streak, who is claiming $128 762,95 in outstanding salaries and other benefits, has since dragged the organisation to the High Court in an attempt to recover his dues.
For the record, ZC have been teeter ing on the brink of insolvency for several years now.
The association has been running in arrears in excess of US$19 million and has apparently been struggling to service the debts.
As a result, Streak’s lawyers have invoked Section 14 of the Insolvency Act (Chapter 06:07) seeking the liquidation of the organisation after their client got no joy on repeated attempts.
Cricket, as it stands, is already in the “intensive care unit.”
Over the years, the huge debts and the high costs of running the game in a financially challenging environment like ours have always stifled development.
But such challenges like the matter between Epoupa and Dynamos, and that of Streak against ZC could be avoided if due diligence is done on agreements entered into between parties.