Stelios Tsoukanis

New fund helps Greek player among hundreds deprived of savings

11 May 2021
Stelios Tsoukanis will have some savings to show for from his six-year professional football career, thanks to the FIFA Fund for Football Players.

FIFA and FIFPRO have announced that 1,005 players will benefit from the first instalment of the fund that aims to help players receive part of their outstanding salaries when their clubs disappear, for example after a bankruptcy.

More than 100 clubs shut down around the world in the five years through February 2020, when the fund was announced. Many of them were Greek clubs, and they left Tsoukanis among more than 250 players in the national league out of pocket.

Tsoukanis (pictured above left) and his teammates at Greek Super League club Niki Volos were in the dressing room before a cup match when the president walked in.

Normally the president would pay the match referee and assistants with that day’s ticket money, but only 20 fans had turned up because of a fan boycott. He did not have enough to pay the officials and said if the boycott continued he would shut down the 50-year old club.

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Players in Greece made more claims for unpaid wages than those in any other country.

“At first we did not believe him,” Tsoukanis said. “But later he told us to pick up our possessions, and not come back. That was it.”

A few weeks later, he signed a six-month contract to play for another Super League club, OFI. But before he could play a match the club collapsed because of its debts.

 “I lost my money, I didn’t have one euro to my name,” Tsoukanis said. “I had to go back home and stay with my family. I was 24 and I went 8 months without playing.”

He won cases against both clubs at the National Dispute Resolution Chamber but because both clubs had dissolved he could not get his money, around 29,000 euros.

“It might not sound like a lot for a footballer but it is to me,” Tsoukanis said. “I had played professional for six years before that but did not have any real savings.”

Now thanks to the fund Tsoukanis and many of his former teammates will receive at least some of the money they are owed.

After the initial $5 million outlay from the fund announced yesterday, further grants will cover subsequent seasons.

FIFPRO is pushing for more such salary protection funds at a national and continental level. The lack of wage protection is one of the themes of FIFPRO’s Shaping Our Future report

After his Super League clubs shut down, Tsoukanis went on to play in the Greek second division, work as a plumber and study sports management.

He is planning to return to football in a management role – and contribute to a more sustainable game.

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FIFA Fund for Football Players