by James Willis

It’s understandable that the major news in European football last week was the resignation of Fabio Capello. The Italian disciplinarian seemingly had enough with the English FA and chose to make a stand over his comments about the whole John Terry captaincy saga.

Most people may, therefore, have missed a report released on Tuesday 7th February by FIFPro regarding problems faced by players in Eastern European football.

It’s not just your normal booklet giving a few basic facts and figures about minor issues. It’s a daunting view of real problems and serious cases that some footballers have to deal with on a very regular basis.

Match fixing, racism, harassment, bullying and delayed wages are rife throughout Eastern European football according the the report.

An example of the violence that is said to take place around Europe, mentioned in the booklet, is that of player Nikola Nikezic.

Nikola Nikezic was playing for FC Kuban Krasnodar in Russia, and a point came when the club wished to prematurely end his contract as they were looking to buy new players in his position. After declining to dissolve the contract just under a year early, Nikezic became the victim of a ruthless beating from two unknown men in one of the club’s offices.

Having been beaten by the two men for close to 20 minutes and having been threatened with the guns the men were carrying, Nikezic signed the paperwork. After leaving the club Nikezic had the courage to come forward and reveal his ordeal to FIFA and FIFPro. Eventually the player was offered compensation from the club after negotiations with FIFPro and the Russian Football Federation.

Nikezic is just one of many players who have suffered, and some who still are suffering, violence throughout Eastern European football. FIFPro report that on average one in nine players said they had been victims of violent attacks, with around 55% of those attacks coming from the clubs so-called “fans”. Perhaps more disturbingly, 13.3% of the attacks were from club management and another 8.3% were from the club’s coach.

Serbian soccer player Dragisa Pejovic, left, looks on as Theo Van Seggelen, Secretary General of FIFPro, the World Players Union, addresses the media on the FIFPro Black Book for Eastern Europe in Brussels.

The stories revealed by this report remain this concerning from start to finish. Lack of finances at some clubs mean that salaries are often late and in some cases can leave players quite literally scraping a living.

Adis Stambolija, playing his game in Croatia, is reported to have gone 9 months without being paid at some points in his career, giving him no living expenses for accomodation or even nutrition. He revealed to FIFPro that he has previously had to sleep in locker rooms because of having no money for real accommodation.

It’s a trend around Eastern Europe that is a problem for many players and club’s alike. 94% of players in Montenegro claimed they don’t get paid on time, with two thirds of players in Greece also saying the same thing.

Lack of finances often links in with another one of football’s most major problems in match fixing. FIFPro’s black book then tells another story that, again, offers an insight into the tough lives of some players. Mario Cizmek confessed to the organisation that he had taken part in match fixing, not because of greed, but because it was his only choice.

In a situation unique to Eastern Europe, Cizmek was technically a self-employed player while he was at FC Croatia Sesvete which meant he still had to legally pay all taxes and social obligations​ himself, regardless of whether he received his wages from his club on time or not. Having received absolutely nothing in months, Cizmek was driven to desperation.

One in nine players claimed to have been approached about match fixing in the past.

He told FIFPro that someone he felt he could trust had come forward to ask him if he wanted to make some money and, clutching at straws by this point, Cizmek took the opportunity. He is now adamantly clear that it was the worst decision of his life, having ended up fixing six matches.

He is quoted by FIFPro as saying “It is hard to describe how I felt when I intentionally missed the ball for the first time, as if I was spitting on my entire career.”

Cizmek is honest about his past. Admitting his guilt, he claims that he knows he has to take responsibility for his actions despite the circumstances surrounding them. He questions whether he’ll ever be able to play football professionally again as he awaits what looks likely to be a 10 month sentence in prison.

It’s almost unbelievable that players are driven to such lengths by circumstances beyond their control but FIFPro, and other organisations, are now working incredibly hard to stamp these problems out of the modern game.

It’s reported that one in nine players claimed to have been approached about match fixing in the past, and almost twice that amount are aware of other match fixing scams going on in their league.

Around 43% of the players from Russia, who took part in the survey, are aware of match fixing in their league which provides a startling reality for those organising the 2018 World Cup, had they  not been made aware of the problem already.

These are problems that clearly have no place in football and yet they are almost commonplace in some Countries. It’s something that FIFPro have been working to bring to people’s attention in order to help more happen to counter these issues.

You can read the full FIFPro Black Book on Eastern Europe here –

You can follow James on Twitter at!/jwillis50