“Players in our country have noticed that we are a FIFPRO member now,” Linos Chalwe, General Secretary of the Zambian union, told FIFPRO.
“We have taken another step forwards thanks to all the knowledge we have received from FIFPRO, which we trying to pass onto our players.”
Chalwe, a former national team player, mentioned various examples, such as FAWUZ’s “Back To School” campaign, their efforts to create a standard player contract, their developing relationship with the Football Association, and their support for the women’s national team.
“The women’s team has just qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations, but the players receive next to nothing,” Chalwe said. FAWUZ is trying to arrange fair remuneration for them and is in talks with the country’s Football Association (FAZ), and Ministry of Sports.
“We’ve had many sessions with the players over the last few years. In 2020 they qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games, as the only African country, and recently they qualified for the Africa Cup of Nations (AWCON). That enabled us to go into the boardroom and say ‘Look at what these women are doing. How can they walk away with just a few dollars? Give them fair remuneration. Gone are the days that you just play for the flag.’”
The football association has set up a professional women’s league, but according to Chalwe not all clubs have provided their players with contracts. “The working conditions are pathetic. We are in talks with FAZ. We know about Morocco, where the federation created a special women’s football development plan. Why can’t FAZ do the same? If they set up a professional league, why can’t they spend some money on that? They receive money from FIFA to develop the women’s game. What better way to develop women’s football than to improve the players’ working conditions. That money has to trickle down to the players. They are literally playing for nothing.”
Regardless of these words, Chalwe says that FAWUZ has a good working relationship with FAZ. “Our modus operandi has been not to confront them, but to engage them and to discuss and seek solutions with them.”
For instance, FAWUZ and FAZ are jointly working on a standard player contract, which the union hopes to get approved before the start of the 2022/23 season. “Health, insurance and accommodation should all be mentioned in the contract. Currently, some of the contracts don’t have these basic requirements. We will be running the standard contract past FIFPRO for guidance.”
“We are trying to push a minimum wage in that contract. You can’t have players playing in an elite league and getting 200 or 300 dollars, which is close to nothing. You want to have a minimum wage for professional players that someone can live off. FAZ agrees with us. They also don’t want professional footballers playing for six years in our top league, with nothing to show for it, because they were only getting 100 dollars.”
“These are things we are discussing with the football association and we are heading in the right direction,” he added.
Becoming a FIFPRO member has improved the work done by FAWUZ, according to Chalwe. “We’ve become more professional, and doors have opened for us. We used all the input from FIFPRO to better understand how to represent players. We are in touch with other player unions, who are sharing their experiences with us,” Chalwe said.
Chalwe will not only turn to African unions for advice. He is hoping to arrange that players in Zambia’s professional league automatically become a union member, as it happens in England, so he will be in touch with the PFA and he wants to contact Dutch union VVCS to talk about their pension fund.
“We want a tailor-made plan. Players can only get to their pension fund when they are 65, which means they have to wait for 35 years if they retire at the age of 30. We think that is one of the reasons why 75 percent of footballers in Zambia are destitute after their careers. We have created a concept pension scheme with a private company that allows players to have instant access to what they have contributed.”
“We need to find a permanent solution, because our players cannot play until they are 65.”