By Eddie Chikamhi
This time, no one could deny Washington Arubi his prize as the best footballer plying his trade in this country this year. A year after Arubi was controversially disqualified from selection for a finger gesture at Barbourfields that only a few saw, he was crowned 2011 Castle Soccer Star of the Year in Harare last night.
The Dynamos goalkeeper was set to win last year’s award before some journalists connived to deny him his glory by claiming that he had behaved badly with a finger gesture aimed at Highlanders’ fans at Barbourfields. Instead, after Charles Mabika had walked out of the selection meeting in protest, Charles Sibanda was crowned Soccer Star of the Year.
But you can’t keep a good man down forever and yesterday Arubi had his date with destiny. The DeMbare ‘keeper hogged the limelight last night when he walked away with two big awards after he was crowned the Castle Soccer Star of the Year and the Goalkeeper of the Year at a glittering ceremony in Harare.
The choice of Arubi as the best player this season was unanimous and it was a fitting honour for the 26-year old Warriors goalkeeper, who has been impressive between the posts for the Glamour Boys in one of their most successful seasons. DeMbare won the league and cup double.
It was a special night for Arubi as he became only the third goalkeeper to scoop the coveted accolade in the history of the domestic football awards, which were first presented in the 1969 soccer season. Rarely do goalkeepers compete for the big award but yesterday they dominated the stage, as FC Platinum’s Tafadzwa Dube was unveiled as the first runner-up while Motor Action’s talismanic midfielder Allen Gahadzikwa settled for third place.
But it was a special night for Arubi as he joined an elite league of goalkeepers Japhet Mparutsa (who achieved the feat in 1982) and former CAPS United goalminder, Energy Murambadoro, who won the crown in 2003. Arubi won US$5 000 and trophy for the achievement and was also presented with the Goalkeeper of the Year award worth US$ 2000, to take his pickings to US$7 000 on the night.
League champions Dynamos had three players showered with awards as fiery rookie forward, Roderick Mutuma, received his Golden Boot award after finishing the season as the top goal scorer with 14 strikes to his credit. The lanky forward, who was playing his maiden season in the top-flight, could have easily made it among the 11 finalists but was disqualified for the six yellow cards he picked up during the season.
But there was consolation for him in the Golden Boot award, which had US$3 000 prize money. Teammate Denver Mukamba overcame the disappointment of failing to garner enough votes to make the 11 finalists, losing the poll by just a single vote, to be named Rookie of the Year, beating Chicken Inn’s highly-rated midfielder Morris Kadzola and Gunners’ forward, Cliff Sekete, to the award.
The accolade is reserved for registered players under the age of 20 years who have been outstanding during the season. Hwange were voted the Most Disciplined Team and their coach Tenant Chilumba was crowned Coach of the Year after leading the side to a commendable fourth place finish. Chilumba beat Moses Chunga and Callisto Pasuwa who had made the shortlist for the award.
Harare referee, Batsirayi Muchenje, was voted Referee of the Year in a controversial season for the match officials. Tione Kacheche was the first Runner-Up and Bongani Gahadzikwa took third place.
Muchenje is one of the officials who have managed to keep their heads high in a season where most of the officials were severely criticised for their shoddy performance. Referees had to be hired from Zambia and South Africa for the Mbada Diamonds Cup semi-finals and final amid a plethora of complaints about the biased officiating from local referees.
Premier Soccer League chairman, Twine Phiri, hailed the players and officials who won the prizes and said they should continue to be good ambassadors for the game. Phiri also praised sponsors, Delta Beverages, for their sponsorship package.
“We are gathered here tonight not only to honour good performers in the 2011 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League football season, but also to confirm that football is a source of fun for more than a billion people around the globe, providing them with a worthwhile occupation and a livelihood.
“Football is the world’s greatest game. We need to talk about the positive things in the game. We encourage all the players who won Awards tonight to be the good ambassadors for the game,” said Phiri.
Footballer Of The Year Awards
Footballer of the Year (US$5 000)
Washington Arubi (Dynamos)
1st Runner Up (US$3 000)
Tafadzwa Dube (FC Platinum)
2nd Runner Up (US$ 2 000)
Allen Gahadzikwa (Motor Action)
Finalists (US$1 000, each)
Cliff Sekete (Gunners), George Magariro (Dynamos), Rahman Kutsanzira (Highlanders), Graham Ncube (Highlanders), Abba Amidu (Black Mambas), Tapiwa Kumbuyani (CAPS United), Nkosana Siwela (Hwange), Donald Ngoma (FC Platinum)
Top Goal Scorer of the Year (US$3 000)
Roderick Mutuma (Dynamos)
Goalkeeper of the Year (US$2 000)
Washington Arubi (Dynamos)