2014 season: Nothing to smile about

HARARE - The Footballers' Union of Zimbabwe (Fuz) has expressed disappointment in the losses made by Zimbabwe football in 2014 saying the period left the sport at the point of collapse.

The year was characterised with Zimbabwe’s failure to qualify for the Africa Cup of Nations finals for the fifth time in a row whilst Dynamos Caf Champions League campaign ended pretty much as soon as it begun.

On the domestic scene, the drama started as early as pre-season with back page stories dominated by players’ strikes.

The tragedy spilled over into the start of the season, at which point the shortcomings of all 16 Premiership clubs become evident.

Whether it was in Zvishavane where Shabanie players went seven months without salaries or it was in Harare where Dynamos were at each other’s throats over outstanding dues, the story was distinctively similar.

The Eastern Region was no different.

Luke Masomere had to extend a begging bowl to the Mutare community in the hope of bailing out his players who had gone for months without salaries while he was still at Buffaloes.

The concern of injured players being neglected and left to buy their own medication without any hope of getting any refunds became the order of the day.

Ultimately the competition dwindled.

“It was bad year, the economy did not do much to help matters,” Fuz secretary general Paul Gundani told the Daily News on Sunday.

“In terms of players’ welfare, it was bad to say the least. We were spending most of our days at arbitration because clubs were failing to honour contractual obligations. We are afraid that if this situation continues, match fixing will also escalate.”

Gundani said the Zimbabwe league has become a breeding ground for match fixing as players are vulnerable.

“As a union we have made a survey of clubs and every team out 16 owes players wages, allowances and it is not a healthy situation,” Gundani said.

“So what happens when players from Shabanie are approached by match fixers? Will they have the morale to resist?

“As a union we feel there are a lot of things that are being done wrong that can be done better.

Crowd control also left a lot to be desired with a Highlanders fan, Themba Hloli, losing his life in August following disturbances at Barbourfields when the Bulawayo giants lost to Dynamos.

“We still believe Zifa and PSL have a lot to do in controlling fans they have to demand that all officers on duty during matches don’t watch the match they watch the crowd,” he said in reference to crowd trouble that marred a number of PSL matches.”

Sponsorship also left a lot to be desired as the bult of the funding went to administration costs. 

“Our observation in terms of sponsorship is that much of it is not benefiting players directly. That is why we are saying the PSL should give clubs grants to subsidise their day to day operations or at least negotiate favourable deals that will see players directly benefiting.

“At the moment players’ salaries are dependent on gate takings and at the end of the season winning moneys go to the club and they decide which of their creditors to pay first.

“We should have a system like in South Africa where promoted teams are given R1.3 million which helps the teams stay afloat but in Zimbabwe we can’t have that system because most the sponsorship goes into administration and marketing.

“Very little is left for winning money and its players who are suffering.”

Gundani added: “We also want to see professionalising of referees. We cannot continue to have a scenario where Hwange who are hosting Dynamos are the ones paying match officials.

“What stops the Hwange official who is going to the referees changing rooms and paying the referees from increasing the money? PSL should be paying referees not clubs!

Fuz also registered their disapproval at the current relegation procedure where a quarter of the 16-team league is relegated at the end of each season.

“How can we expect continuity?” Gundani questioned.

“We are then having promoted teams failing to fund their operations and consequently going back to the lower divisions.

“We would rather have a small league which is well-funded than a big league with teams failing to cater for their players."

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