The highly publicised and equally embarrassing quagmire that Namibian football currently finds itself in has now gained international attention, with FIFA and FIFPro said to have taken note and intend to follow up on the situation.
Updating the media on various resolutions taken at the just-ended FIFPro (Fédération Internationale des Associations de Footballeurs Professionnels) annual general assembly in Costa Rica, Namibia Football Players Union (NAFPU) secretary-general Olsen Kahiriri yesterday said NAFPU made full use of the platform to alert the international community to the worsening situation in Namibian football.
Kahiriri, an outspoken trade unionist widely respected for his fearless stance on players’ rights, said when they arrived in Costa Rica the international football community – especially FIFA and FIFPro – were totally unaware of the situation in Namibia, where football players have now gone for some six months without a salary due to the dormancy of the Namibia Premier League (NPL).
Kahiriri was accompanied to Costa Rica by NAFPU president Lolo Goraseb.
“Shockingly, when we arrived in Costa Rica none of our fellow FIFPro members were aware of the Namibian situation, so we took the opportunity to alert the international football family about what is going on in Namibia and how various football administrators don’t take players’ rights seriously.
“Luckily, Namibia was not the only country on that boat, as Gabon also joined us in expressing the same issues, as players in their country have now gone for almost eleven months without salaries and the situation is worsening,” Kahiriri explained.
According to an earlier BBC report, footballers in Gabon, the host nation of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations, have downed tools in protest over non-payment of salaries for most of the past year. Some players were reported to have also demanded payment of salaries dating back to 2013.
As such, all 58 members of FIFPro present at the gathering – including the five FIFA delegates that attended the general assembly – took note of what is happening in both countries and the common position was that FIFPro and FIFA would have to urgently zoom into both cases to see how they can be assisted.
“We also held special talks with member unions led by Switzerland, Egypt and Ghana, amongst others, as well some FIFPro and FIFA members, who all availed their time and resources to help us address players’ rights in Namibia.
“If we have to take this battle to the highest court in the world, they equally assured us to fully count on their financial assistance,” he added.
Members particularly interested in the Namibian case that promised to personally follow up included FIFPro director for legal affairs Wil van Megen and FIFPro vice-president Brendan Schwab, who is also the new chief of UNI World Athletes.
UNI World Athletes is responsible for bringing together professional athletes’ organisations from major sport codes, such as football, cricket, rugby union, ice hockey, baseball, American football, basketball, rugby league, netball, cycling and Australian football.
NAFPU vs NFA case postponed
On the protracted case between NAFPU and the Namibia Football Association (NFA), Kahiriri informed the press that the case was on Wednesday again postponed, this time to 25 November.
The conciliator will by then be expected to make a final decision on the dispute between the two parties.
Just last month, NAFPU dragged the NFA before the Labour Commissioner for a host of reasons. Chief among these was what NAFPU termed the “arrogance and dirty tactics” of the NFA.
NAFPU claims the NFA refuses to acknowledge or cooperate with them as the exclusive bargaining agent of Namibian footballers, despite various attempts by the union to develop a rapport with the NFA.
They say their attempts failed dismally due to the NFA’s alleged arrogance and that the union was thus left with no other option but to seek relief through the Office of the Labour Commissioner.
Ironically, the NFA officially recognised NAFPU in 2012 as the exclusive bargaining agent for footballers under the NFA’s jurisdiction, and in 2014 the union was also granted membership status on the NFA’s executive committee.
Earlier this year NAFPU backtracked on their decision to be NFA members and summarily tendered its resignation, a decision that was widely hailed, as many felt that the union cannot reside under the NFA and still effectively represent the players’ rights.
According to Kahiriri, NAFPU is no longer an NFA member, but an independent union bargaining exclusively for the rights and improved working conditions of local footballers – something officials at the NFA apparently still refuse to accept.