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2023 Merit Awards: Celebrating the inspiring work of players and unions


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  • Winners of Player Activism, Player Impact and Player Voice awards revealed at FIFPRO General Assembly in Cape Town, South Africa

  • Zimbabwean union FUZ voted by fellow player associations as 2023 Union Impact Award winner

  • Find out more about the player and union projects 

Chris Kach (Kenya), Cedric Bakambu (DR Congo), and Wout Brama and Maud Roetgering (the Netherlands) are the winners of the 2023 FIFPRO Merit Awards.

Kach, Bakambu, and Brama and Roetgering were announced as the winners of the Player Activism, Player Impact and Player Voice awards, respectively, on Thursday during FIFPRO’s General Assembly in Cape Town, South Africa. They were selected by a special committee consisting of representatives from each of FIFPRO’s five regional divisions, previous Merit Award winner Ayisat Yusuf-Aromire and Global Player Council member Chinyelu Asher.

Meanwhile, the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ) was voted by fellow player associations as the winner of the 2023 Union Impact Award. FUZ played an instrumental role in helping lift the ban imposed by FIFA on the Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) due to government interference. All national teams – men, women, youth – were suffering from the ban, while Zimbabwean clubs could not play in continental competitions.

Player Activism: Chris Kach

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Chris Kach won the Player Activism Award empowering the intersex community in Kenya and beyond through football and advocacy. Kach advocates for intersex rights by creating safe spaces, raising awareness through education, and collaborating with social and economic projects. Kach has their own printing firm that has had a positive impact on at least 20 intersex players.

Kach said: “Winning this award means a lot – not only for me alone, but for all intersex players. It recognises all intersex players involved in football in Kenya and around the world. There are many intersex footballers who are not yet willing to come out, and I hope this award will help them to do so.”

Discover Kach’s story HERE.

What the jury said

“Kach is fighting for others’ equality, not just their own. They are fighting for other people’s freedom of life and freedom of expression. That is huge.”

Player Impact: Cedric Bakambu

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Galatasaray and DR Congo forward Cedric Bakambu was given the Player Impact Award for the remarkable work carried out by his foundation. The Cedric Bakambu Foundation aims to develop people in DR Congo by providing education on literacy, health, new technologies, sport and the country’s history. The foundation has supported, financed and created various initiatives, including a visceral cancer and endocrine surgery research project in France that supported a hospital in Kinshasa.

Bakambu said: "It was on my first trip to DR Congo, responding to a call-up to the national team, that the idea of creating a foundation came to me. I was 23 and I was shocked by the appalling living conditions of countless children. I was stunned, physically and morally devastated, by so much misery, by that inescapable begging.

"I remember my thoughts then turned to my parents. What if they hadn’t left their country and moved to France, where I was born: would I too have been one of those kids myself, left to my own devices, with nothing to look forward to, no hope, no reason to believe in the future? I had to do something; I had to find a way of offering those poor lost children the opportunities I had when I was their age."

Learn about Bakambu’s story HERE.

What the jury said

“When doing something for society, it should benefit the community rather than the individual. That is what Cedric is doing. He is using sport and his foundation to support education, regardless of who these people are or what they do. It is all about making people inclusive in society.”

Player Voice: Wout Brama and Maud Roetgering

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Wout Brama and Maud Roetgering, who ended their respective careers after playing more than 15 years for Dutch club FC Twente, won the Player Voice Award. Both are trying to make football more inclusive through their children’s book: Wout & Maud.

The book addresses various societal issues such as inclusion, diversity, equality, religion, race, upbringing, and acceptance of gay players in men’s football. Their main message is that football is for everyone. The book is the first of a series where multiple issues are tackled.

Roetgering said: "We didn’t expect to win an international award. It is superb to get this recognition. It will encourage us to make an even better Part Two of our book series. We’ve had a lot of fun doing this and we will continue with this project, as long as we enjoy doing it and notice that it has a positive effect."

Brama said: "We learned that when you have an idea, you should just get started. In our case, we had an idea and started looking for a writer, and ever since the ball kept rolling. So, to everybody out there: just get started, even when you don’t know how it will end."

Read Wout's and Maud’s story HERE.

What the jury said

"It is a wonderful concept, which is impactful. There has been widespread publicity and debate around these issues. It is great that they are using their position as footballers to promote that debate because it is part of their world."

Union Impact: Footballers Union of Zimbabwe 

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The Footballers Union of Zimbabwe (FUZ) collected the 2023 FIFPRO Union Impact Award, recognising the extraordinary work of the union in helping overturn the FIFA ban imposed on the country's football association.

In February 2022, the Zimbabwe Football Association was suspended by FIFA after governmental interference. The decision had severe repercussions for national team players and footballers throughout the country.

After a year of little progress towards having the ban lifted, the FUZ initiated an attempt to break the impasse. The union, together with FIFPRO, organised a meeting at FIFPRO’s head office in the Netherlands with a FIFA delegation, FUZ President Desmond Maringwa, and national team players Marshall Munetsi and Nyasha Mushekwi.

They agreed on a process that included a delegation of FIFA, CAF and local confederation COSAFA visiting Zimbabwe to meet and talk with local players, the union, ZIFA and other stakeholders to get a clear view of the situation. These meetings led to Zimbabwe’s ban being lifted in July 2023.

The three finalists of the Union Impact Award – AUAPFP (Ukraine), MUFP (Uruguay) and FUZ (Zimbabwe) – were all saluted for their inspiring work.

Read about their projects