Europe-based Nam footballers expect salary cuts

By Michael Uugwanga

WITH Covid-19 continuing to destabilise the world and the financial prospects of athletes, Namibian footballers are no exception to this as some Namibian players abroad could see their salaries cut, depending on the decision being made by their respective football associations, federations and clubs.

In England, Spain, Germany and some parts of Europe, they have already started talking some few weeks ago after Covid-19 was declared by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as a global pandemic, in response to which some football leagues have proposed players’ salary cuts.

Namibia has a few footballers playing professionally in Europe, such as Ryan Nyambe in England at Blackburn Rovers in the English Championship; Manfred Starke at FC Kaiserlauten in the German third division league; Wangu Gome at Alashkert Yerevan in Armenia’s first division; Zenatha Coleman in the Spanish top flight female football league for Valencia; and Veweiziwa Kotjipati at Vfl Borussia Mönchengladbach in the second tier of women football league in Germany.

Gome, who joined Yerevan last month after spending months without a club said he was informed by his club of a potential salary cut, but this is yet to be made official as he and the rest of his teammates are still waiting.

He said he keeps himself fit by doing light training on his own while waiting for normal training to resume once the football association gives a green light.“Those talks (of salary cuts) are there but not finalised yet. No further comment on this matter for now. I do some push ups, squats and many other things just to keep myself fit,” Gome said.

Kotjipati said she too was still waiting for the final decision on how the salary cut will work, especially for women, who are still underpaid compared to men. Kotjipati is also a teacher by profession in Germany.

“I cannot say much to it, because I don’t know how salary cuts affect players individually, especially male footballers who earn a lot of money, but I feel like it is something that has to come as players’ initiative and not from the force of the club, society and media.

“I can also imagine very well that a lot  of male footballers can live for a certain period of time on what they have been earning in the past without earning any money in these situations, but that is not the same situation with us females. The money we mostly earn from our football is something like pocket money.

“The club spoke to us individually, so at the end I understood the club’s situation and I am in agreement with the cut. For lots of players it is important that the club survives this situation financially. We all want football that we love so much to start, however currently at the moment people’s health is what should come first.

“On the other hand I am really grateful that I have my main teaching job. It is where I mostly get the main income to be able to make a living, but also at the moment you see how Covid-19 has changed everything,” she said.

In Africa and Asian football leagues, talks of player salary cuts have not been heard, however one cannot rule it out, depending on the situation.

In Egypt, Benson Shilongo, who plays professional football in Egypt’s top flight league for Ismaily is currently in Ongwediva after his club released its foreign players until the situation has normalised.“The club told us to keep social distances and to train on our own. There was never talks about salary cuts,” said Shilongo.

Petrus Shitembi, who plays club football for Sabah in Malaysia’s top flight league, said he is just following the club’s rules and that mainly involves social distancing.“We are all told to train on our own and [to adhere to] social distancing. I do some jogging and little bit of push ups. There is no such thing as salary cuts,” said Shitembi.

Deon Hotto, who is at Bidvest Wits in South Africa’s Absa Premiership, said like any other footballer he is following the precautions as advised by his club. “The club has told us to practice social distancing, wash our hands regularly, eat healthy and keep fit during the lock down,” Hotto said.