The Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ) is one of three player associations nominated for the 2023 FIFPRO Union Impact Award. The award recognises the best initiative of a union that is improving the wellbeing of professional footballers in their country.
During the FIFPRO general assembly on 21-24 November in South Africa, all member unions will vote to decide which of the three finalists will win the 2023 Union Impact Award.
In 2022, FIFA suspended the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) for government interference. All national teams – men, women, youth – were suffering from this ban, while clubs could not play in continental competitions.
The suspension lasted for more than a year and negotiations between FIFA, ZIFA and the country’s Sports and Recreation Committee (SRC) were at a stalemate. The players were victims of the actions taken by stakeholders and governing bodies, and they had the impression that their voice was not being heard.
The players wanted to find a solution to get the ban lifted; they wanted to make the decision-makers aware what the players were experiencing, especially as it was the players who were suffering most from sanctions put in place against ZIFA’s and SRC’s governance shortcomings.
FUZ first initiated a meeting with the SRC, then, together with national team player Marshall Munetsi, had a conversation with a FIFA representative. This was followed by a meeting at FIFPRO’s headquarters with FIFPRO leadership, FIFA representatives, FUZ president Desmond Maringwa, and national team players Nyasha Mushekwi and Munetsi. Jointly they agreed that delegations of FIFA and CAF would both have meetings in Zimbabwe with stakeholders and local players.
Maringwa said: “The presence of the players in the discussions with FIFA and CAF was the major driving force in our strategy. The players voiced their concerns without any hesitation as they knew there was protection from the union. It was also important for FIFA to hear that the local players and international players spoke with one voice.”
Firstly, the FUZ members got a better understanding of and appreciation for the negotiation process with governing bodies. Secondly, the suspension was eventually lifted, which allowed Zimbabwean players to the chance to play internationally again.
Maringwa said: “As an organisation, FUZ showed how strong we can be to seek clarity, and to be the bridge between FIFA, the government and ZIFA. We now have close cooperation with FIFA.”
In July, FIFA announced that it lifted the ban of ZIFA, allowing national teams to play matches again, and club teams to play in continental competition.