Spare a Thought for Local Football Players

THE majority of the Premier Soccer League players are set to have one of their most difficult Christmas holidays this year.

This year they will not be able to enjoy the “bonus” from the prize money which is usually disbursed at the end of the year to every club according to their positions.

This has not been a normal period for football in Zimbabwe because of the coronavirus pandemic which made it impossible for the domestic season to kick-off.

This is the first time such a disaster has happened since the league was founded.

But as most of the Premiership clubs started sending their players home for the Christmas break as from last Friday, the reality on the ground points to a bleak festive period.

One of the players said they have not realised meaningful earnings this year and they lack the spending power to cheer up their families during the Christmas holidays.

“Honestly speaking, things haven’t been fine for some of us this year. The clubs have been struggling to meet their obligations but you cannot blame them because there was no football taking place.

“There haven’t been any meaningful adjustments taking place to the salaries. So we became the biggest victims during this time of the pandemic. It’s a pity our families will not be able to enjoy Christmas this year,” said a player who requested anonymity.

The clubs, mostly those with no corporate backing, have been struggling to stay afloat in the absence of the game. They have also found the going tough with the monthly salary bills and to keep their operations going during the difficult Covid-19 period.

While most of the clubs have been able to meet their financial obligations to the players every month, the figures have not been adjusted consistently and the net value of these salaries has largely been eroded by inflation.

Some clubs are also believed to be struggling with salary backlogs, going as far as four months.

Footballers Union of Zimbabwe secretary-general Thomas Sweswe acknowledged the dire situation facing the players this year.

“There have been cases reported earlier in the year but this time around we have not dealt with many such issues. It all goes back to engagement between the employer and the employee.

“But what we have been made to believe is that most of the guys have been getting their monthly salaries as per agreement. It has been a very difficult year for everyone,” said Sweswe. But some of the corporate backed clubs have been able to weather the storm. Harare giants Dynamos are one such institution who have been able to keep their salary bills up to date.

The Glamour Boys spokesperson, Yvonne Mangunda, said they have been able to religiously meet the players monthly financial obligations, with the necessary adjustments, thanks to their sponsors Remington Gold.

“The players got their December salaries as usual,” she said.

“But it has been a difficult year for football in the sense that we have not been able to get out on the field and play matches. At the same time the club had to pay the players’ salaries without fail.

“The absence of football has been a big blow but our sponsors Remington Gold have provided the financial cushion that the club needed.

I can’t imagine what it would have been like without them and having to rely only on gate-takings.”

Army side Black Rhinos have also been able to pay their players before the Christmas holidays.

The club’s secretary-general Edward Mutukwa said although the club has no backlogs, he felt for the players who suffered prejudice in winning bonuses because of the absence of football this year.

“Basically, in terms of salaries we had no problem because the organisation was taking care of the bills.

But players need to boost their pockets with the winning bonuses, which they were not able to get this year because of obvious reasons.

“As a club we generally cannot mourn over the loss of potential revenue from the gates because, unlike the big teams such as Dynamos and CAPS United, we don’t depend much on the gates because of the support base,” said Mutukwa.

Herentals secretary-general, Fainos Madhumbu, said they paid their players their December salaries before they dissolved camp yesterday.

“We have been able to pay our players their salaries, just like any other month. The year 2020 has been a big challenge because no football was played.

“But when we thought we are finally going to play, the proposed mini-tournament was cancelled without much explanation. We even incurred more costs because of that,” said Madhumbu. Football suffered this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. FIFA came to the rescue of local football with a package of US$1.8m.

However, these funds turned out to be a mere token after ZIFA allocated the 18 PSL clubs US$100 000 to share equally among themselves.

This meant each club pocketed a paltry US$5 500. PSL clubs have a staff complement of not less than 50 people. The huge part is the playing staff comprising 30 registered players and then the rest would be the technical officials and the office personnel.

From the figures that came out of the disbursements, it meant each player got around US$100, which is not enough to buy groceries and pay rent for one month.

ZIFA revealed they had actually appealed for US$11.5 million from FIFA, to help domestic football, but — just like all the other member associations — ended up getting a fraction of what they wanted.

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