THE Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ) is holding its annual general congress on the outskirts of Harare this week, with more than 40 delegates attending.

The three-day event, which kicked off yesterday afternoon, provides an opportunity for the delegates to discuss a number of issues including players welfare.

Of those attending the congress, the majority are players from the men and female premier league teams. Also invited are officials from the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and Zifa.

“We are holding our annual congress and we have all our delegates present from respective clubs, and this year it’s kind of different in the way we are doing it because we will be discussing issues to do with the welfare of players, football in general and what has been the year like, and the challenges that we are facing as footballers,” FUZ president Desmond Maringwa said.

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“We will also look at the future of the union, and the vision as well. We will discuss what we can do for the players from what they encounter on a daily basis.”

FUZ is a union for local footballers whose formation was influenced by the ever-existing footballers’ social and economic vulnerability. The union also provides, facilitates and safeguards proper welfare and working conditions of current and former football players.

The union is a member of the International Federation of Professional Footballers (FIFPro), a body that represents more than 65 000 professional footballers around the world.

“We have a lot of cases reported to us on contractual breaches, non-payment of bonuses, salaries and wages by clubs. We are also dealing with the issues of standardisation of contracts. This is at an advanced stage. We have updates on our members on the progress we have made with the PSL and Zifa on that. We will also discuss the new rules that are there in football,” the former Dynamos and Warriors midfielder said.

“We are using the platform to try and create a bond between us and the members. We will have a team-building exercise for us to get to understand each other. Our guests here are mostly captains for their clubs so it’s a better platform for us to impact knowledge on them on how to build a team, how to be a leader and how to behave and deal with clubs and their officials. There will be a lot of discussions around those issues,” Maringwa added.

FUZ has helped a lot of players in disputes with their clubs, notably in the case between Cameroonian Christian Ntouba and Dynamos over outstanding salaries and bonuses.

With the assistance of FIFPro, FUZ also helped Edward Sadomba to successfully fight his dispute against former club Al Hilal which saw the player being paid US$450 000 following termination of his contract.

Apart from helping players, FUZ also holds “players out of contract” training camp every year, an event which offers professional players, who are out of contract, a platform to showcase their talents in front of Premiership coaches, club administrators and scouts.

A host of players have benefited from the initiative.

In addition, the union also rewards excelling players with their monthly player of the year awards which they introduced in the past season. Both male and female footballers benefited, winners walking away with a trophy and R5 000.

FUZ will host the player of the year event at the end of this month, to honour the best player in the local league voted for by fellow players.

“These awards are to be a symbol of achievement, hard work, professional success and a form of motivation for many to reach for even higher levels of success.

“The unique nature of these awards is that they are an opportunity for players themselves to honour one another for the great achievements, thus encouraging fair play, oneness and healthy competition in football,” FUZ said.