Ramson Zhuwawo soccer star of the year
By Robson Sharuko
ZIMBABWE international midfielder Ramson Zhuwawo was last night rewarded for his inspirational role in leading little Gunners to the CBZ Premiership title by being inducted into the exclusive club of domestic football’s Soccer Stars of the Year.
The ambitious Gunners, who won the Premiership title in only their second year in the top-flight league, dominated the show by also providing the Coach of the Year with the award going to Zimbabwean football legend Moses Chunga.
On a glorious night for locally-based Warriors strikers, pre-selection favourite Cuthbert Malajila of Dynamos was crowned the second best player in the Premiership while red-hot CAPS United striker Nyasha Mushekwi was voted third.
Gunners’ Tafadzwa Dube won the Goalkeeper of the Year Award.
Mushekwi, whose goals pushed the Green Machine into third place during a late rally in which he was clearly the best player in the Premiership, also took the Golden Boot.
Bulawayo referee Thabani Mkantjo recovered from committing the Mother of All Blunders, in last year’s BancABC Sup8r Cup, to win the 2009 Referee of the Year Award after edging Kenny Marange in a close race.
The night, though, belonged to Zhuwawo.
The 25-year-old attacking midfielder became the 33rd player to be inducted into the Soccer Stars’ Hall of Fame with the football writers rewarding him for his starring role as he led little Gunners to the Promised Land.
While the good money had been on a duel between Malajila and Mushekwi for the big prize, Zhuwawo sneaked into the picture and beat the two hitmen, from two of the country’s three biggest clubs, to capture the grand prize.
It appears that the selection panel chose to give some value to the contribution of the men who helped the Zimbabwe Warriors win the 2009 Cosafa Senior Challenge Cup on home soil when they beat Zambia 3-1 in the final at Rufaro.
Zhuwawo was part of that squad but, given his chance as a substitute, he came up terribly short and did not feature in the final when the Warriors turned on the style — before a capacity crowd at Rufaro — to score three times in the first half and destroy their northern neighbours.
Instead the stars of that show were, ironically, Mushekwi — who scored twice on his return from injury — and Malajila who hit the other goal, after a lovely move by the Warriors, to send the massive crowd into delirium.
The voting pattern, however, suggested that the football writers gave little value to the Champions League where little Monomotapa defied the odds to reach the last eight of the competition and, in the process, sent former champions Asec Mimosas tumbling out of the tournament.
Monoz also beat former African champions Etoile du Sahel and eventual runners-up Heartland of Nigeria in the group phase of the competition with a number of players, including striker Darryl Nyandoro, outstanding.
There is no doubting Zhuwawo’s brilliance, throughout the season, as he turned into the heartbeat of the Gunners’ campaign that eventually saw them beating Dynamos in the marathon to be crowned the champions of the country.
But in a season where his major rivals also featured prominently in success stories in the Champions League and during the campaign for the Cosafa Senior Challenge Cup, maybe, the Gunners’ attacking midfielder’s individual contribution was not the best of the lot.
Especially given the background that when the best from the domestic Premiership were pooled into one team for the Cosafa Senior Challenge Cup, Zhuwawo struggled at that level while Mushekwi and Malajila were outstanding in that team.
The Soccer Star of the Year Award has attracted its fair share of controversy in recent years, which has diluted its value, and football writers will have to once again look into the mirror and see the inconsistency of their voting patterns.
For, if it was right to reward Zhuwawo for his sterling show in helping Gunners win the Premiership title, why was it wrong then for the same football writers to reward a Monomotapa player — say Mthulisi Maphosa — for leading his modest club to league championship glory last year?
Instead, the award was given to Njube Sundowns striker Evans Chikwaikwai — whose side only won the Independence Trophy — who has struggled to make the grade at modest South African Premiership side Bidvest Wits.
It will be difficult to sell the idea to a lot of neutrals that Zhuwawo did more than Malajila and Mushekwi this season or Maphosa and Zimbabwe international winger Chris Semakweri whose skills ended up being noticed by African champions TP Mazembe.
Fans interviewed by The Chronicle in Bulawayo this week had even suggested that Mushekwi was their man for the big award with Malajila coming second.
But that certainly won’t deny Zhuwawo his moment of magic after he joined some of the country’s greatest players in history to be accorded the honour of being chosen as Soccer Star of the Year.
Legendary Dynamos forward George Shaya won the award five times while Peter Ndlovu and the late Stanley Ndunduma picked up the award twice.
Ndlovu could have won it a record number of times if he had spent the best part of his career, like Shaya, plying his trade on the domestic front rather than on the fields of England where he made such a big impact playing for Coventry City that he was even rated the next George Best.
Chunga could also have won it more than once but for a controversial decision to bar him from the selection panel, on the basis of his questionable disciplinary record in 1986 when the late Mercedes Sibanda won it, and his flirtation with European football at the peak of his career. At least Chunga won the award.
Stanford “Stix” Mtizwa, Friday Phiri, Joel Shambo, Sunday Chidzambwa, Archieford Chimutanda, Vitalis Takawira, Madinda Ndlovu, Willard Khumalo and William Sibanda are some of the superstars who did
not get the chance to win the award for one reason or another.
There are some people who feel that the award has lost its value, in recent years, as the quality on the domestic front loses the glitter that was synonymous with players in the ‘70s and ‘80s.
Zhuwawo, the 25-year-old attacking midfielder, is a product of the Agatha Sheneti Academy whose fruitful partnership with Harare United produced a host of good players including Edward Sadomba, Benjamin Marere, Pride Tafirenyika and Onismor Bhasera.
It’s a fair suggestion that his talent can never be compared to the likes of Chimutanda, Shambo or Khumalo who did not win this award.
Zhuwawo had stints with Harare United, Buymore and Eiffel Wildcats before joining Harare giants Dynamos in a marriage that was supposed to have been made in heaven.
But the player struggled at the Glamour Boys, weighed down by expectations and complaining that he was being played hopelessly out of position, and moved to Gunners.
There his talent began to shine and, this year, he transformed himself into the leader of their pack as they battled for glory on the domestic front and captured the big prize.
His superb goal, in the Premiership tie against CAPS United at Gwanzura, was vintage stuff — taking the ball in his own area, exchanging passes with a teammate, and without breaking stride, finding space in the opponents half before luring the goalkeeper from his line.
The deft touch, that sent the ball spinning over the goalkeeper, was brilliant and he then volleyed the ball home for a crucial win that gave Gunners the belief that they could eventually win the championship.
Zhuwawo walked away US$4 000 richer for winning the Soccer Star of the Year and the Gunners will be hoping that their talisman takes his form onto the continent when they make their maiden adventure into the Champions League.
Malajila received US$2 000 for coming second.
Mushekwi got US$1 100 for the Golden Boot and another US$1 400 for coming third in the Soccer Stars of the Year poll.
Chunga took US$2 000 for winning the Coach of the Year award, his goalkeeper Dube received US$1 100 for the Goalkeeper of the Year award while all the finalists got US$800.
Past Soccer Stars Of The Year
1969 — George Shaya
1970 — Tendai Chieza
1971 — Peter Nyama
1972 — George Shaya
1973 — Ernest Kamba
1974 — Moses Moyo
1975 — George Shaya
1976 — George Shaya
1977 — George Shaya
1978 — George Rollo
1979 — Shacky Tauro
1980 — David Mandigora
1981 — Stanley Ndunduma
1982 — Japhet M’parutsa
1983 — Ephert Lungu
1984 — James Takavada
1985 — Stanley Ndunduma
1986 — Mercedes Sibanda
1987 — Moses Chunga
1988 — Ephraim Chawanda
1989 — Masimba Dinyero
1990 — Peter Ndlovu/George Nechironga
1991 — Peter Ndlovu
1992 — Wilfred Mugeyi
1993 — Agent Sawu
1994 — Memory Mucherahowa
1995 — Tauya Murewa
1996 — Stewart Murisa
1997 — Walter Tshuma
2000 — Zenzo Moyo
2001 — Maxwell Dube
2002 — Dazzy Kapenya
2003 — Energy Murambadoro
2004 — Cephas Chimedza
2005 — Joseph Kamwendo
2006 — Clemence Matawu
2007 — Murape Murape
2008 — Evans Chikwaikwai
2009 — Ramson Zhuwawo.