By Petros Kausiyo
Mobile telecommunications giants NetOne yesterday cleared the air over the Christian Epoupa saga with the Dynamos sponsors revealing that the striker is not owed any salaries by the company since the start of the year. NetOne also indicated that they have paid the big Cameroonian forward’s signing on fees with the DeMbare sponsors giving the player $18 125 to date.
Epoupa, through his manager Gilbert Sengwe, had claimed that Dynamos owe him more than $16 000 in outstanding salaries and signing on fees.
The striker, who is in the last season of his two-year initial deal with Dynamos, has been training with the Harare giants but boycotting matches due to a stand-off over the claims that DeMbare owe him money.
As the stand-off continued without a solution seemingly in sight, NetOne, who since the start of the year inked a deal to bankroll the country’s top three clubs, Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS United, intervened.
As reported by The Saturday Herald, the NetOne management summoned the Dynamos executive as well as Epoupa and his manager to resolve the dispute between the club and the player. Yesterday NetOne chief executive Lazarus Muchenje told a media conference that the saga had been resolved amicably and there were no outstanding financial obligations to the player.
Muchenje was flanked by his company’s top officials who included Executive Director Marketing Communications Eldrette Shereni and the Dynamos management of club president Kenny Mubaiwa, secretary-general Webster Marechera and treasurer Moses Chikwariro.
The NetOne chief executive, whose leadership is also keen on ensuring that DeMbare, Bosso and Makepekepe have strong teams, said although their contractual obligations with the clubs was meant to cover player salaries and related expenses, they had gone a step further to end the controversy over Epoupa, which was having some negative ramifications on their brand.
“As NetOne this partnership is very critical for us as we anticipate the big three clubs to play their respective roles in promoting and protecting our brand in a manner that is endearing to their multitude of supporters.
“However, in the past the media has been awash with stories surrounding the strained relationship between Dynamos and one of its foreign players — Christian Ntouba Joel Epoupa — and have read with anguish the various versions of the story.
“While this matter is purely what we would like to believe, a misunderstanding between Dynamos and Epoupa, the prolonged stand-off between the two parties has become a cause for concern for our brand. “To this end we went over and above our contractual obligations and called for an all stakeholders meeting with Dynamos and Epoupa’s manager on Friday evening to seek clarity on the matter with a view to assisting both parties to find an amicable resolution that is mutually beneficial for all brands,” Muchenje said.
Muchenje also said NetOne had ensured that Epoupa and the rest of the three clubs’ players’ salaries were being paid directly through the company’s OneMoney platform.
“To this end, we wish to put on record and categorically state that NetOne is not in any financial breach in terms of its sponsorship agreement with Dynamos and has processed all of Epoupas’ allowances and sign-on fees as per the schedules submitted to NetOne by Dynamos. And to date Dynamos have paid a gross total of $18 125 to Epoupa this year.
“As the sponsor we ensured direct payment to all the payers through our OneMoney platform as per the provisions of our agreement with all the three clubs. We have invited Dynamos executive as well as Epoupa and his manager to this press conference to assert our position as NetOne and allay any misconceptions that we have not been paying the player since the beginning of the year.
“NetOne takes pride in its contribution towards the beautiful game of football thus far and are committed to improving the quality of sports and culture as this is not only the bedrock that unifies our great nation but resonates with our vision of connecting communities through our widest network coverage and affordable tariffs.
“We are delighted to be able to support the development of competitive sport therefore it is important for us to collectively work towards building strong and vibrant communities for everyone in Zimbabwe both now and in the future,” Muchenje said.
Despite both Epoupa and Sengwe being conspicuous by their absence at yesterday’s press conference, both Dynamos and NetOne insisted that the matter had since been resolved and Mubaiwa said they were expecting the player, “just like any other employees of the club to report for work”.
“If he doesn’t turn up to play, then that will be a case of being absent without leave and it will be dealt with as a matter between employer and employee but we are grateful that the sponsors have done their part and helped us.”
Epoupa, whom coach Lloyd Mutasa believes is the missing link to his attack, is still to feature for Dynamos this year and on Saturday, the former champions stretched their winless run to five games following a 0-0 draw away against basement club ZPC Kariba at Nyamhunga.