Big player with a big heart . . . Munetsi wins UNFP Citizen Player Trophy ONE GOOD TURN . . . Zimbabwe midfielder Marshall Munetsi after receiving the UNFP Citizen Player Trophy from former French football international and 1998 FIFA World Cup winner Christian Karembeu at a glittering ceremony in France on Sunday night.

Eddie Chikamhi-Senior Sports Reporter

MIDFIELDER Marshall Munetsi described his recognition at the National Union of Professional Footballers (UNFP) Awards ceremony in France on Sunday night as a special trophy which will only spur him to do more in the lives of the less privileged children. 

The Warriors star was awarded the UNFP Citizen Player Trophy in recognition of the philanthropic he is spearheading with his Marshall Munetsi Foundation back home. 

The midfielder was presented with the honour by France World Cup winner, Christian Karembeu, on a night when stars Kylian Mbappé and Karim Benzema walked away with the biggest awards after they were crowned the best domestic and foreign-based French players. 

“I am very grateful to receive this trophy,” Munetsi said in his acceptance speech. 

“It’s also a good honour for me and the Foundation. I would also like to thank my club for giving me a good opportunity to help a lot of kids in my country who are underprivileged and I believe that it starts with education and sports. So I am very honoured, I’m thankful that I will continue doing this job.”

“For me this is a special trophy because it’s something that is outside of football. It’s something that is about helping other people. 

“I am very grateful to receive this trophy and I hope that we continue to change people’s lives outside football,” Munetsi said. 

Munetsi, through his Foundation, has made a huge difference in the communities that raised him through charity work that targets underprivileged children. 

The Stade de Reims player recently revealed that he donates around 10 to 20 percent of his earnings to the Foundation, which prioritises educational and sporting development. 

The Marshall Munetsi Foundation has paid school fees for over 60 children at Mabvuku and Donnybrook primary schools. 

He also pledged to supplement their stationery and further donated food hampers to residents of Mabvuku, Caledonia, Chizhanje and Tafara area. 

The foundation also donated kits and eight soccer balls at Kadyamadare Primary School in his rural home in Chikwaka. 

Munetsi’s Foundation was boosted by an unprecedented clause in his recent contract extension in which Reims pledged to donate 100 euros to the Foundation for each kilometre covered by the midfielder. 

The project has also received the endorsement of FIFA, through the world football mother body’s president Gianni Infantino, who penned a personal note of encouragement to the Zimbabwean midfielder about two weeks ago. 

Munetsi charity initiatives are also meant to fight child marriages and the abuse of drugs and other illegal substances by young people.

“I believe we can be able to change the world by starting with young people who are underprivileged to get a better education and also through sports,” said Munetsi.

“Football is just a career which you can play for 10 or 15 years but changing the world is something that you do for the rest of your life.”

Stade de Reims have also played a big part in the initiative. The club donates e100 for every kilometre covered by the midfielder during a league game. The club was excited by the UNFP honour. 

“A player with a big heart! Congratulations to our own Reims’ Marshall Munetsi, rewarded for his commitment to education in particular,” said Reims in a statement.

The Footballers Union of Zimbabwe and Fifpro Africa also congratulated Munetsi. 

The UNFP awards are handed out every year by the National Union of Professional Football Players in France, the equivalent of FUZ in Zimbabwe. 

The awards recognise the outstanding players and officials in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2. 

Although Munetsi could not make the French Ligue 1 best XI, he had a remarkable 2022/23 season with Reims and was even nominated for the prestigious Marc-Vivien Foe award, which rewards the best African player in France’s topflight league. 

He however, missed out on the final three short-list which includes the winner of the previous edition Seko Fofana of Cote d’lvoire, Congolese defender Chancel Mbemba of Marseille and Nigerian forward Terem Moffi. The winner will be announced today.

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