Football Players Association of Malawi (FPAM) and Sportsmen Association (SA) have described their exclusion from the recently established Players Association of Malawi (PAM) by the Football Association of Malawi (FAM) as a deliberate plan to continue suppressing footballers’ voice.
Before the formation of the players association, FPAM was handling welfare issues of current and former players such as coordinating their engagements in vocational training programmes under Teveta, mobilising funds in times of sickness and representing players during funerals. SA was also involved in similar activities, only that it was mostly dealing with current players and athletes of other sporting codes.
FPAM legal adviser Chipiliro Mpinganjira and SA general secretary Mussa Sanudi argued that instead of being a trade union for the players as is the case elsewhere, the players body appointed by FAM would be a mere puppet because “it is a body an employer has created to fight for the rights of its employees.”
All along, FAM has been engaging the Ojukwu Malunga-led FPAM and the SA in preliminary talks about setting up the players body and the two entities were actively involved in players welfare issues such as coordinating footballers vocational training programmes with Teveta and funerals but in the end none of their members has been roped into PAM.
FAM appointed former Super League of Malawi (Sulom) committee member Alfred Lungu as PAM chairperson while former National Youth Football Association (NYFA) chairperson Mabvuto Missi is his deputy. Titha Mandiza, Sungeni Msiska, Chiku Kanyenda, Hellings Mwakasungula, Russell Mwafulirwa, Jimmy Zakazaka and Trouble Kaluwa are among the members.
“It was surprising to see in the press the list of members FAM has appointed. But what happened was not what we agreed with FAM during our preliminary talks concerning the setting up of the players body,” said Mpinganjira.
“The idea for FAM appointing the members was shot down because that could compromise the independence of the players body. The agreed option was that members of FPAM and SA should elect the members. We wonder why FAM hijacked the process. We are trying to find out why FAM went against what was agreed before we can take any action.”
According to Sanudi, SA and FPAM will soon have a meeting to map the way forward because what happened would not help to solve the problems current and former players face in the country but aggravate them.
“We are not going against FAM’s decision but we find it strange that FAM decided to just hijack the process instead of just playing an advisory role. What happened here is like an employer appointing a committee that will fight for the rights of its employees. Would such a committee really stand for the truth?” Sanudi questioned.
But FAM executive member Daud Suleman, who was also chairperson for players sub-committee, said the appointments are in line with the modern football trends that can best address the players welfare issue, as per the framework of FIFPro, a global independent professional football players union.
He said the idea of adopting FPAM and SA was shot down after realising that the players association will be run using subscription funding model, where contracted players will become members; a development that could create problems on classification of benefits if membership was open to all current and former players.
He added that the genesis of the ‘Players Association’ was FAM president Walter Nyamilandu’s ‘Harvest Time’ manifesto “where issues to do with players welfare are being given priority attention.”
“PAM current leadership is interim. It will help to put the ground work together and ensure corporate governance of the welfare fund and the association are in line with modern FIFPro operations. This is why the committee has a mix of people from the corporate world, players and experts in life insurance and health matters,” Suleman said.
When asked why pioneer members of the players’ welfare issues have not been incorporated in the newly-formed players association, Suleman said the entity is not all about the welfare but creating an environment that is financially beneficial to players during and after football.
“Players welfare is far more reaching than sickness and funerals. It will champion different efforts that will be sustainable and scalable through funded operations from gate collections and managed separately,” he said.
Suleman said the option to adopt the Sportsmen Union or the Former Players Association as the ‘Players Association’ was shot down after the meeting realised that:
“The Players Association will be run using subscription funding model, where contracted players will become members and pay some subscription fees towards their membership. This would have caused an operational problem if from the onset the member was allowed to include all disciplines that the Sportsmen Union works with.
“In accordance with FIFPro framework, the Players Association becomes a representative body for all ‘contracted’ players and makes sure that their rights as ‘employees’ are not trampled. In this case, former players would be found to be in special category in as far as primary membership is concerned.
“Classification of benefits would have a problem from the onset if membership was opened to all since others are contributing and their ‘employers’ also contributing to the fund. Time is needed for the Players Association to come up with guidelines and processes that will clearly show how ‘current players’ are entitled to what benefits versus ‘former player’ who have not contributed to the fund.
Nyasa Big Bullets veteran midfielder Fischer ‘Anong’a’ Kondowe, who was in the taskforce team that looked into the process of forming the players association, said FAM did well by creating the players body and appointing members regardless of being pioneers of the players welfare policy.
“It is good that FAM took an initiative to establish this body. Moreover, people should discard the mentality that people should be given positions for being pioneers but rather due to their technical know-how,” he said.
But soccer analyst Charles Nyirenda said he was surprised that the players feel happy to operate an association with FAM leading the cause when their grievances stem from what the local soccer governing body does for them.
“The point is that when a group wants to form an association or a union, it does so to ensure that it fights for its rights and gets what it deserves. But in this case, it will be a queer setup where the purported oppressor and the oppressed will continue to exist. Why did the players not form and register this body independently?” he wondered.