By Robson Sharuko
Harare - Twenty years ago, he was just a 20-year-old playing in the biggest football game to feature a Zimbabwean club as Dynamos battled Ivorian giants ASEC Mimosas in the final of the CAF Champions League in Abidjan, which the West Africans won 4-2 in controversial circumstances.
Tipped by many for greatness, Desmond Maringwa never fulfilled his potential because of a succession of injuries, which stalked him for years and eventually forced him out of the game but not before inspiring his Glamour Boys to the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League in 2008.
While some of his teammates have gone into coaching, Maringwa has chosen a different path and plunged into the world of trade unionism, as the president of the organisation that looks after the affairs of the professional footballers of the Zimbabwean game.
And Maringwa, who turns 40 on June 30 this year, is proving a huge success in his line of duty as the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe boss that some are now starting to tip him to become the ZIFA president in the future. For now, he is making a difference for many Zimbabwean footballers and making a mark for himself on the international scene, as he wins some landmark cases representing professional footballers from this country who would have received a raw deal from their clubs.
A laid-back character, who is never comfortable in the spotlight, Maringwa prefers to do most of his talking in the boardroom as he lets the results of his organisation’s work do most of the talking.
“It’s all about those we are trying to help and those whom we have helped and not really about us,” said Maringwa.
“It’s about ensuring that contracts are honoured and promises are not broken and we have to try and protect our members in the best way possible.”
And the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe, which Maringwa leads, have been scoring some landmark victories on behalf of their members on the international scene.
The organisation was established in 2003 and became a member of FIFPro, the world’s player union, in 2010 and they have a fully-fledged office at the National Sports Stadium in Harare.
In July last year, Zimbabwe international footballer Edward Sadomba won a landmark ruling, with the help of FUZ, when he successfully sued his former club Al Ahli Tripoli of Libya with the Court of Arbitration for Sport based in Switzerland ordering the team to pay the player US$450,000.
Sadomba, one of Zimbabwe’s fine football exports who is still revered in Sudan where he starred for giants Al Hilal, approached FUZ for help after failing to get any recourse from the Libyans despite the striker having sacrificed a lot to stay in that country and play for the team while the nation was being torn apart by civil strife. FIFA, the world football governing body, had ruled against Sadomba and FUZ but the two parties took their case to CAS, who ordered that the Libyan club pay the costs of the proceedings and the US$450,000 they owe to the Zimbabwean striker.
“Given the Appellant’s appeal is upheld, the panel is of the view that the costs of this appeal shall be borne entirely by the respondent in the amount to be communicated to the CAS Court Office,” CAS said.
“An overall appreciation of the matter and legal issues at stake including taking into account the outcome of the proceedings as well as the conduct of the financial resources of the parties, the panel deems it fair and reasonable that the respondent shall pay the Appellant CHF5,000 as a contribution towards legal costs and other expenses in connection with the present proceedings,” read part of the judgment.
CAS also set aside the decision of the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber on 15 July 2016 and ordered that Al Ahli also pay Sadomba US$450,000 plus interest rate of 5 percent per annum as of 11 January 2016 until the effective date of payment.
Sadomba revealed he fasted and prayed for hours to have his appeal upheld by CAS after FIFA had dismissed his original case “for lack of evidence”.
“We fasted and prayed when we appealed to CAS for justice to prevail since the FIFA DRC had not ruled in our favour,” said Sadomba.
“It (the ruling) is a wake-up call to me and fellow players because some clubs don’t act professionally so we must all be careful and my advice is that if you are a footballer be a member of FUZ (FIFPro) because they are so helpful when you face these challenges.
“We should also surrender our lives to God so that when anyone wants to mess with your career, we have a great advocate ‑ God.”
His deal with the Libyan giants was worth about US$600,000 in signing-on fees, bonuses, salaries and allowances but the two parties agreed to terminate the contract after the club fell victim to the civil strife in the country, which made it impossible for the league to continue.
The Libyans agreed to pay Sadomba US$450,000 but they did not honour their part of the deal, leaving the player with no choice but to turn to FUZ, who arranged legal representation for Sadomba in Harare with Kudakwashe Chisekereni of Zvinavakobvu Law Chambers while the parties also worked in conjunction with one of FIFPro’s legal counsels, Roy Vermeer.
It was the first major success story for FUZ and Maringwa.
“There were some quarters who were looking down on us, but we are a member of FIFPro that fights for the players’ interests,” Maringwa said.
“I would like to applaud Duduza (Sadomba) for having confidence in us to deal with his case. We always tell even national team players that they should join FUZ and wherever you will be playing you will get help.”
CAS said the Zimbabweans had a case.
“Employment contract was terminated by mutual consent (The termination Agreement) pursuant to Article 1 of the Termination Agreement, upon termination of the contract, the club undertook to pay the player the amount of US$450,000 although the date of the payment was not specified,” the organisation said in their ruling.
“According to Article 2 of the Termination of Agreement, it was also established that no other amount payable to the player under the Employment Contract was outstanding at the time the termination agreement was signed.
“On an unspecified date the player signed a document named ‘cash payment order’ stating the following: (a) It is paid to Mr Edward Sadomba holder of ID number EN813394 an amount of US$450,000 only against the termination of the contract.”
On May 2 this year, Maringwa and his FUZ also scored another major victory when they helped Zimbabwean international forward, Matthew Rusike, to win his case with the FIFA Dispute Resolution Chamber who ruled in the player’s favour to be paid €142,500 plus interest.
Rusike had taken his case to FIFA, with the help of FUZ, after debt-ridden Tunisian giants Club Africain failed to pay him his outstanding salaries and bonuses.
The player, who is now playing for South African Premiership side, Cape Town City, said he is due to be paid in excess of US$260,000.
He had signed a two-year contract in January 2017 but the Tunisian giants did not honour their part of the bargain and Rusike was forced to leave but he came back to haunt them with Maringwa and FUZ playing an influential role in the case.
“The claim of the claimant, Tyrell Matthew Rusike, is partially accepted. The respondent, Africain, is ordered to pay to the claimant, within 30 days as from the date of notification of this decision, outstanding remuneration in the amounts of EUR142,500 (US$170,000) and TND 342 plus 5 percent interest p.a. until the date of effective payment,” FIFA said in their determination.