Dingilizwe Ntuli, Sports Editor
BULAWAYO City FC vice-chairman and former Highlanders’ sharp shooter Zenzo Moyo last week urged local players to sign with renowned intermediaries, previously known as agents, that can get them deals they’re really worth.
Moyo revealed to Chronicle Sport last week how he had to personally fight to get a reasonable contract at AEP Paphos of Cyprus when he joined in 2000.
He said the Cyprus club did its research and had all details about how much he was earning in Zimbabwe and wanted to offer him what he felt was little.
Luckily Moyo had an offer from SuperSport United of South Africa which was more than what Paphos were offering and he used that to bargain.
Although in the end the Cyprus club offered him a better deal, Moyo believes he could have got a much better deal if he had engaged an agent. He said negotiating directly with club officials often strains relations.
While Moyo’s strong character and conviction helped him not to fall victim to exploitation that most local football players are subjected to, sadly most promising talented players continue to be preyed on by their mother clubs and unscrupulous handlers.
During Moyo’s generation, naive and unrepresented players had no idea of their rights or value when signing contracts and the advent of agents was meant to arrest such rampant exploitation, but they seem to have carried matters to the opposite extreme.
Agents now wield so much power that players often find themselves even signing for a club they don’t want.
Some agents have built a reputation as shrewd negotiators, getting the best deals for players, but others tend to negotiate deals that only satisfy their financial greed, which in most cases is detrimental to a player’s progress.
Super agent Jorge Mendes is perhaps the most powerful intermediary in world football, looking after Cristiano Ronaldo, Diego Costa, David de Gea, James Rogriguez and colourful coach Jose Mourinho.
The commission his firm Gestifute takes is thought by Forbes to be around $100 million a year.
Other top intermediaries in world football are Iranian Kia Joorabchian, who is actually not a licensed agent, but advises players on their rights and clubs on transfers and contracts. He’s also a third-party owner of players, calling himself an investment manager for the world’s up-and-coming talents. Israeli businessman Pini Zahavi is another shrewed agent, who is probably best known for helping bring Roman Abramovich to Chelsea as well as the influx of players that soon followed.
Mino Raiola and Jonathan Barnett are other sought after agents that have top players under their management.
According to Zifa, Zimbabwe only has five accredited agents, Gibson Mahachi, George Deda, Gerald Maguranyanga, Colin Zilali and Charles Jones.
Of these five, Mahachi is the most renowned, having brokered deals for a number of players with South African clubs. Mahachi also has top coaches, among them Sunday Chidzambwa, Kalisto Pasuwa and Norman Mapeza, in his books.
Because there is no strict distinction as coaches’ agents also represent players, this sometimes triggers controversy.
For example there was a time Mahachi represented about half of the Zimbabwe national team, including the coach.
Although these players may have been selected on performance, such a set-up always raises reasonable suspicion that the agent and coach are generally pushing for players from their stable to be scouted by teams from better paying leagues because the potential financial rewards on offer have become ever more alluring.
This scenario is open to manipulation and abuse as it puts undue pressure on other players that are not part of the agent’s stable to sign with him to increase their chances of being selected for national duty or not being dropped from the team.
Hopefully the five Zifa accredited agents will not put their financial needs ahead of players’ interests by taking advantage of the challenging economic environment to make players sign for deals that will stall their progress.
The agents need to provide invaluable knowledge and technical know-how to players first and then negotiate fair deals that are both financially rewarding and also help their football careers to flourish.
Although these agents deserve a portion of whatever deal they broker, they also need to quash the widespread perception that agents prioritise personal financial reward over the players’ interests.
They must have the conscience to say no to a deal that is not right for a player and not be opportunists that have found a lucrative cash cow by taking advantage of most players’ contractual “illiteracy”.
Our lucky five agents should therefore have the courage and honesty to tell players they are not ready to move even though the agent is in line to reap a huge reward.
Our players must earn a living from their talents and agents must not take advantage of their illiteracy or desperation to exploit them.