Mulenga, a national team player for Zambia, is owed hundreds of thousands of dollars after going unpaid for an entire season.
His club Liaoning Hongyun was one of 11 Chinese teams disqualified last year for financial problems; it subsequently shut down.
Mulenga is among players to find there is no way for him to get their money back.
“From the day I notified the Chinese football association that I was owed salary not one person from there has contacted me or raised an eyebrow,” Mulenga said.
FIFPRO’s Shaping Our Future report says that a lack of salary protection schemes for players leaves many exposed to unsustainable governance.
To start countering this problem, FIFA has set up a fund with FIFPRO for players who have exhausted legal means to get their unpaid salary.
The fund is massively over-subscribed. Almost 1,400 players have claimed $61 million of wages from 2015 to 2020 for a $5 million allocation.
Now FIFPRO is pushing for national and regional salary protection funds to support players left out of pocket through no fault of their own.
“The Chinese FA don’t really have much control - they make rules but those rules are broken,” Mulenga said. “Players are not protected.”
Mulenga’s career has taken him from France to Turkey and the Netherlands, as well as China.
He is now playing for Go Ahead Eagles in the Netherlands. He may have taken a pay cut, but at least he is now getting paid for his work.
In Shaping Our Future, the Netherlands is grouped among 12 countries “with a stable football economy, embedded in robust football governance and employment conditions.”
There is a rigorous licensing system in Dutch football, and the last club to fold in the Netherlands was back in 2013.
If a club goes bankrupt, under a government scheme players are guaranteed at least three months of unpaid income.