Rugby Players struggle for survival

By Trevor Makonyonga
A general belief is that when one earns themselves a place among the crème de le crème of local sport, and is selected to represent their nation, a decent living is well inline. This is not the case in local rugby where players are struggling for survival.

They earn very little money both at their local clubs and the national team. Spiked Sport caught up with a Zimbabwe Rugby national team player who opened up on some unbelievable happenings in the sports’ circles. The player, based in Harare, plays for one of the top clubs in the country but to avoid compromising his contractual obligations will remain anonymous in this article.

The player said that besides the track suits, bags and fancy reputations, there is nothing more the sport earns them. Tinashe (not real name), said, “The sport is really nice and is lucrative in some other countries but here we are struggling. Imagine being called up to the national team to tour representing your country and putting aside all that is on your schedule to be part of your nation’s pride, that is the best feeling one could ever have.

“When you get into camp you make new friends and you take with you some of your friends from your local club. The atmosphere is really beautiful. Wearing the tracksuits, and carrying those bags with the Zimbabwe bird is all we gain.”

Tinashe was initially evasive when asked how much a rugby player earns at both national and club level. He said most of the talented guys left the sport to work in other trades or play for other countries like South Africa because of poor renumerations. “Whenever we are in camp our moral is high but as soon as the issues of the figures arise, people generally get demotivated.

“At the national level, earnings average at US$150 per player for touring with the team. On rare occasions we get double the amount. There are some senior players who get slightly more than everyone but it is really not much a big difference,” he added.
“At clubs some do not even get anything. People just play for the love of the game nothing else.”

He said most players play club rugby because of lucrative job offers to lure them from rival clubs. “We are playing for our reputations. If you get injured clubs do not have money to help.”

The player said that it is impossible to survive on rugby alone especially when the Zimbabwe Rugby Union (ZRU) is failing to find sponsorship to run the league. “I am sure you know what happened last year. The season was indefinitely suspended as ZRU failed to retain Delta as their partners. That just sums up the state of affairs. To young aspiring professional rugby players in Zimbabwe I would urge them to take their education seriously as one can never survive on rugby. Rugby in Zimbabwe is not a wise career.” Tinashe said.

“I work somewhere to keep surviving and I go for league matches whenever I am free. That is what most of the boys do. If Zimbabwe invests in our sport, I tell you we have almost the same talent as South Africa. It is currently hard to believe due to the random placements of the players.”

Tinashe however said that nomatter these difficulties the players remain committed to representing the team with the hope that things will change someday. His thoughts on Zimbabwe rising to be above where it once was in the past were that the sport has to be taken seriously.

He said, “For Zimbabwe to be up there, the authorities has to take the sport seriously and respect the talents they have. There is no need to frustrate the players. There is also need for the corporate world to chip in and help our struggling board and also partner with our local clubs. That way we will get better. If it remains as it is, the sport will always be a joke.”

As the nation backs the national team, there is hope that things will change and hopefully someday players will be able to earn a decent living out of the sport that has made millionaires in some countries.