The Sunday Mail
WRITING on FIFPRO’s website sometime last year, Zimbabwe international midfielder and player rights activist Marshall Munetsi described the issue of fake agents as more than a problem.
“I would rather call it a crisis,” Munetsi, a member of the FIFPRO’s Global Player Council, wrote.
“A lot needs to be done to raise awareness of how these fake agents — and even fake academies — are destroying people’s lives.
“People are working hard to earn a living and then they lose it in an instant just because somebody is promising their kid that they might be the next Didier Drogba or Samuel Eto’o,” he added.
According to FIFPRO, when Munetsi became a member of the Global Player Council, “he, among other things, wanted to help FIFPRO raise awareness about the danger of people pretending to be agents”.
Munetsi first heard about fake agents in 2015, when he was still playing for Orlando Pirates in South Africa.
“One day, three players from Nigeria arrived at the club’s training ground with their luggage.
“They were supposed to meet their agent at the club, but he wasn’t there. They thought they had a contract with Orlando Pirates but the club knew nothing about it,” recounts Munetsi in that article of July 2023.
“They spent all their family’s money to pay the agent and get to Cape Town, expecting to get a contract.
“Instead, they were looking at the prospect of being thrown onto the streets.
“I, together with some other people at the club, helped them back to Nigeria.”
Munetsi wrote the article in reaction to a sad case that involved former Warriors midfielder Archford Gutu, who organised a trip for aspiring footballers to Dubai, which sadly turned into a disaster and embarrassment for Zimbabwe.
Through the Archford Gutu Boys Academy, he promised the young players trials in Dubai, with the prospect of signing professional contracts with some European clubs.
The footballers — aged between 16 and 22 — travelled to Dubai on February 24, 2023 but ended up overstaying in the United Arab Emirates city for over 50 days, as it emerged that Gutu had fed them false promises.
Gutu and some eight boys ended up stranded nearly 10 000 kilometres from home and would go for days without food and accommodation.
The Government had to intervene by flying the stranded athletes back home.
One of the affected players, Nigel Mandibatsira, told FIFPRO, through the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe, that they spent more than three months without training.
“At times we did not get food; at times we got one meal a day. We would only get food at midnight. It was terrible,” he said.
“As players, we had a dream, we were just hoping it worked out. I was really hurt.”
Unsuspecting parents lost a lot of money.
“At first, we paid US$1 300 to join this trip and a further US$1 200 for accommodation and food,” revealed Craig Mutakura Tawananyasha, another boy who was also stranded in the Middle East.
“After that, we had to pay visa fees. It was a lot of money. I was supposed to use that money for going to school, but we ended up sacrificing to pay for this trip.”
The issue of bogus agents and fake academies is back in the limelight following another case involving Harare-based City Football Academy.
Its owner, Agrippa Guti (35) has since appeared in the Harare Magistrates Court on January 31 facing charges of defrauding parents of over US$9 000.
Guti reportedly posed as an agent of English Premier League side Manchester City and allegedly duped parents who wanted to send their children for trials with the English giants in Dubai.
He has since been remanded out of custody.
ZIFA chief executive officer Yvonne Manwa said they would soon move to close unscrupulous academies.
“As an association, we are obliged to act,” Manwa said.
Academies are ordinarily regulated by ZIFA through the office of the technical director.
ZIFA, however, are yet to appoint a new technical director following Wilson Mutekede’s departure in November last year.
Manwa urged parents to shun bogus academies.
“The new technical director’s first task will be to ensure that the academy system is revamped to safeguard young footballers and their supportive parents.
“With the technical director leading the process, we are going to ensure that strict standards are set for academies before they are approved to operate,” she added.
The country has of late witnessed the mushrooming of unregistered academies, most of which are manned by unqualified coaches.
Football talent scout Wieslaw Grabowski is concerned about the emerging trend.
“Most of these academies you see today are after money. They are good at this crooking business and know little about football tactics and talent development,” said Grabowski.
“If a player is good, then he is good. There is no need for parents to pay large amounts so that their kids can be afforded a chance to train in Dubai.”