By Eddie Chikamhi
ANXIETY is building up as the domestic Premiership awaits the crowning of the new Soccer Star of the Year in the 41st edition of the awards function to be hosted by the league’s sponsors Delta Beverages in Harare tomorrow night.
As has become the norm in recent years, the selection has raised debate about the finest to grace calendar this year with three players Masimba Mambare, Denver Mukamba and Ronald Chitiyo emerging among the front-runners for the top prize.
Young Dynamos defender Partson Jaure also has an outside chance following a good display in his debut season in the top-flight league.
The winner is set to walk away with a trophy and US$5 000 while the first and second runners-up are assured of pocketing US$3 000 and US$2 000. Organisers of the banquet are looking to host a flawless event, which will effectively close the chapter on the 2012 domestic football season.
Premier Soccer League chief executive, Kenny Ndebele, yesterday said all is now set for the hosting of the awards function. “We are looking forward to a very colourful event. But let me stress that it’s strictly by invitation because our venue is small and therefore cannot accommodate big crowds,” said Ndebele.
“The preparations are well on course. All the 11 finalists will be dressed by the sponsors in beautiful suits. We want the players to realise that they are football ambassadors on and off the pitch,” Ndebele added.
The award was won by Washington Arubi last year, but the former Dynamos goalkeeper has since moved to South Africa. Interestingly, there is no one from the remaining 10 finalists that is in the running for the top accolade again this season.
Highlanders, who finished runners-up to Dynamos in the championship race following a good display under Zambian coach Kelvin Kaindu, have contributed more players to the calendar than any other team.
Bosso have four players who include Mambare, Ariel Sibanda, Innocent Mapuranga and Mthulisi Maphosa. There were also places for the Chicken Inn duo of Felix Chindungwe and Kudakwashe Mahachi, Hwange captain Rodwell Chinyengetere and Golden Boot winner Nelson Maziwisa.
Last year, there were such players as Cliff Sekete, Tafadzwa Dube, Rahman Kutsanzira, Donald Ngoma, Tapiwa Kumbuyani, Graham Ncube and George Magariro, but they remained in the shadows this year.
“The fact that there is no player from last year’s finalists shows that there is great competition in our domestic game. On the other side it’s also a reflection that some players have not been consistent.
“But if you look back to the previous seasons, our soccer stars usually attract the interest of clubs outside the country, especially in South Africa.
“And to the 11 finalists, even if you don’t win the big prize you should strive to be there again next year. Hopefully those who win it will be good football ambassadors,” said Ndebele.
But the selection process has been riddled with factionalism, with the selectors divided between the Northern and Southern regions. This has fuelled debate on the authenticity of the outcome of the whole process, which left many football supporters disillusioned by the whole process.
“I can’t be the right person to comment on that because we just organise the event and arrange for the people to come and vote. I understand 43 people were involved in the selection process and how they voted we are not privy to that.
“How people voted for the soccer stars remains their secret and if the people involved are actually saying it then it would be interesting if you can conduct a survey with the people involved. I think that would help us improve the voting system in future because we do not believe such things should be happening.”
The selectors are chosen from a wide section of stakeholders who include journalists, coaches and representatives of the players from the Footballers Union of Zimbabwe.
Ndebele said the selection process had been improving over the years. The Soccer Star of the year award was introduced in 1969 with Dynamos legend George “Mastermind” Shaya being crowned the inaugural winner.
“We seem to be getting in the groove. We have tried to engage all stakeholders in the selection process including the media,” said Ndebele.
Meanwhile, former CAPS United striker Fungai Tostao Kwashi yesterday tipped Dynamos striker Mukamba to be crowned the overall Soccer Star of the Year.
Kwashi wrote on his Facebook wall yesterday: “For Soccer Star of the Year award, my vote is Denver Mukamba. He won all the big cups, he scored and created goals . . . Plus (he) entertained the fans with (some dribbling) skills. Deep down in our hearts we all know that the boy deserves it . . . No jealousy or bad mind (sic).” The Herald
2012 Soccer star of the Year Finalists
Ariel Sibanda, Innocent Mapuranga, Masimba Mambare, Mthulisi Maphosa (All Highlanders), Felix Chindungwe, Kudakwashe Mahachi (Both Chicken Inn), Denver Mukamba, Partson Jaure (Both Dynamos), Ronald Chitiyo (Monomotapa), Rodwell Chinyengetere (Hwange), Nelson Maziwisa (Shabanie Mine).