Home » Sports » A Star Football Forgot . . . Time to Consider Player Welfare

EXACTLY 10 years ago, on May 16, 2004, my world was turned upside down when I was injured in a bus crash while returning home with my Dynamos teammates from a friendly match in Kwekwe.

The game we had played that day, against Kwekwe Cables, became the last one for me as my career, which promised a lot then, was cut short and my life changed forever.

Last Friday marked the 10th anniversary of the day when fate dealt me a cruel hand and ended my football career when I was only 26 and playing for the biggest football club in this country.

It has taken me 10 years to gather courage to tell my story and it’s a sad one indeed.

I know that I’m not a unique case.

There are many like me whose careers were cut short.

There are many like me who chased their football dreams, attracted by the magic of the number one sport in the world, lured by its global universal language and converted by its religion, but sadly never realised their full dreams.

Football is a sport meant to entertain and its entertainment value rakes in billions worldwide through television rights, endorsements and aertising revenue among other streams.

In the major European leagues, players and agents get a fair slice of the cake with Wayne Rooney earning wages in excess of US$300 000 a week for displaying his skills to millions of worldwide viewers.

Off the pitch, these players’ welfare is of paramount importance to both the clubs and agents who walk with them.

Sadly, back home, the situation is deplorable and we have seen players plunging into strikes a number of times in the Premier League and even this week, there were reports that the Buffaloes players haven’t been paid.

Players go for months with no salaries and their welfare off the pitch seems to be none of the clubs’ concern.

It appears many clubs only value and treasure the players during the 90 minutes and do not care what happens to the players afterwards.

I am both a witness and a victim and so I should speak on this subject with some authority.

I believed I was a left back with a lot of potential, that’s why I was able to play for Dynamos and play for the Warriors.

But when I was injured and my career ended, Dynamos and football turned their back on me.

DeMbare bought me from Sporting Lions and for me it was a dream move, but little did I know that I was walking into a disaster zone and I would be the biggest loser.

On May 16 we played a friendly match against Kwekwe Cables and on the way back home, the Dynamos team bus was involved in an accident.

This was one of four fatal accidents that year mainly caused by travelling long distances at night.

The first accident involved CAPS United and the nation lost three players — Gary Mashoko, Shingi Arlon, Blessing Makunike and two passionate supporters.

Ours was the second and two further accidents occurred involving Golden Kopje and Sporting Lions.

In the Dynamos accident, I came off the worst, among those injured, and I was hospitalised for months.

Dynamos only paid the fees for me to be admitted at Parirenyatwa and nothing more, nothing less.

In an instant, the relationship with my beloved club was over.

They made no effort to assist me with medical bills or provide morale support during this very difficult time.

I had to sell my house in Chitungwiza to cover my medical bill, something which traumatises me up to this day.

I had played for the Warriors and one thought Zifa would also care for me, but I was wrong.

Football forgets its stars very quickly.

Ten years later, very little seems to have changed.

Zimbabwe has seen many players with immense potential suffer career-ending injuries with the PSL clubs and Zifa are happy to look the other way while journalists stack up the statistics.

Basil Chisopo, Samson Choruwa, Johannes Ngodzo, Edmore Chitate, Steven Matsaire, the late Peter Chibwe and David Guyo, one can go on and on, but one thing is clear — no lessons have been learnt.

It is high time that the football family came together to right this wrong.

As the new Zifa board gets down to work, efforts should be made to develop a medical aid product for players playing in Division One and the PSL, not forgetting women’s leagues.

Zifa and the PSL can also introduce a pension fund for players as a fall-back position in the event of injury, death or retirement.

Realising that most accidents happen during the night, the PSL can also consider introducing a standard travel policy touching this and, hopefully, ensure that the next 26-year-old with a talent like mine won’t suffer the same fate.

I feel hurt that a game that I loved and worked for, could treat me like this.

This article was written with the help of Robson Sharuko and Masimba Kuchera.

Source : The Herald