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Soccer Star to be crowned today

By Grace Chingoma

THE 33rd footballer to be crowned Soccer Star of the Year will be inducted into the elite club tonight at a ceremony in the capital to celebrate the achievements of the country’s finest player this season.

Chosen a month ago by a panel of 13 soccer writers in Kwekwe, the identity of the winner has remained a secret, but tonight the country will know who the writers believe was the best player on the domestic scene.

The winner will walk away with US$4 000, the first runner-up will get US$2 000 while the second runner-up will pocket US$1 400.

There will be an additional US$800 for the winners as each of the 11 finalists will get a similar amount.

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Financial institution CBZ Holdings, who sponsor the Premiership, are also are bankrolling tonight’s awards in what promises to be a glittering ceremony at a Harare hotel.

Bustling CAPS United striker Nyasha Mushekwi is already assured of US$2 000 for being the Premiership’s best marksman.

The Warriors forward, one of the stars of Zimbabwe’s Cosafa Senior Challenge Cup winning squad overcame a slow start to the season to fire 22 goals.

Mushekwi is also one of three CAPS United players among the Soccer Star finalists.

There will also be US$2 000 for a new award that the Goalkeeper of the Year award with Gunners Tafadzwa Dube, big CAPS United goalkeeper Edmore Sibanda and Dynamos’ Ephraim Mazarura among the favourites.

The Coach of the Year and the Referee of the Year who will also be honoured tonight will each get US$2 000.

Former Njube Sundowns striker Evans Chikwaikwai won the Soccer Star of the Year award last season and also claimed the Golden Boot after scoring 23 goals.

Chikwaikwai is not part of the calendar this year as he has since moved to South African Premiership side Bidvest Wits.

Tonight’s winner will be inducted into the hall of fame, which was started in 1969 when George Shaya won the first award while playing for Dynamos.

Shaya was crowned Soccer Star of the Year five times, Peter Ndlovu won the award twice while the late Stanley “Sinyo” Ndunduma was also a two-time winner.

So who will be the winner tonight?

On paper it appears to be a two-horse race between influential Gunners midfielder Ramson Zhuwawo, who was the driving force behind his team’s successful march towards their maiden Premiership title, and Mushekwi whose goals also helped CAPS United into third place on the log standings.

Although the competition hardly rewards goalkeepers, Dube — who also inspired Gunners from between the posts — veteran CAPS United defender Method Mwanjali and Dynamos hitman Cuthbert Malajila, winner of the Cosafa Golden Boot also have a chance to win the accolade.

Malajila, a Golden Boot runner-up to Mushekwi with 19 goals to his credit, is the only Dynamos player among this year’s finalists.

Mwanjali has been a consistent performer for both club and country this year.

Talented forward Chris Semakweri also deserves special mention for leading Monomotapa’s cause in the Champions League in which the 2008 Premiership kings surprised even themselves to reach the group stage of the competition and earn a cool US$400 000.

But with Japhet Mparutsa in 1982 and Energy Murambadoro in 2003 being the only goalkeepers to have won the prestigious award, Dube should arrive at the ceremony knowing that history will not be on his side tonight.

The forwards have dominated the awards and it is very likely that one of them will again be crowned Soccer Star of the Year tonight.

Somehow the football writers have a huge affection for forwards, making it difficult for goalkeepers and defenders to be recognised.

Sadly, it is those small things that matter when it is decision time and it could prove the difference between winning and coming second or third for the inspirational Gunners goalminder.

But Dube, who crossed the floor from rivals Dynamos where he did not have game time and transformed himself, is likely to win the inaugural goalkeeper of the year award.

Zhuwawo, another former Dynamos player to have starred for Gunners, was also part of the Warriors Cosafa squad but he failed to take the same form he had for his club and eventually played a cameo role in Sunday Chidzambwa’s side.

He however, did enough for Gunners to merge the champions’ best player during the season.

Gunners’ third player on the calendar — Norman Maroto — also has his roots at Dynamos and seems to have convinced the selectors based on his 19 goals that fell just two behind Mushekwi on the top scorers’ charts.

While Zhuwawo struggled for form in national colours, Mushekwi actually transformed his club form to the national team with the 22-year-old former basketball star outstanding in Zimbabwe’s 3-1 win over Zambia in the final.

Gunners could have a treble of awards on the night with their mentor Moses Chunga, who finally broke his duck after a decade of coaching to win his first championship, being favourite for Coach of the Year.

Seasoned referees Kenny Marange of Mutare and Bulawayo-based Thabani Mkantjo look set to contest for the Referee of the Year, which was controversially won by Hwange.

2009 CBZ Soccer Stars

Ramson Zhuwawo, Tafadzwa Dube, Norman Maroto (Gunners), Nyasha Mushekwi, Tafadzwa Rusike, Method Mwanjali (CAPS United), Chris Semakweri, Mthulisi Maphosa (Monomotapa), Cuthbert Malajila (Dynamos), Thabani Kamusoko (Njube Sundowns), Farai Vimisayi (Hwange).