By Eddie Chikamhi
Last year’s Premiership Soccer Star winner Danny Phiri believes CAPS United defender Hardlife Zvirekwi is the best person to inherit the throne and has tipped the defender for success when the football fraternity gathers in Harare tonight to crown the best player for the 2016 season.
The Warriors midfielder, who is now based in South Africa, yesterday said he feels Zvirekwi has been a cut above the rest in a successful season with Makepekepe.
Phiri beat Knox Mutizwa and Ocean Mushure to the crown last year and has been following Zimbabwean football with keen interest after moving to Golden Arrows.
The former Chicken Inn skipper said he would have also voted for the FC Platinum duo of Petros Mhari and Winston Mhango along with Zvirekwi in the top three.
The Zimbabwe international has emerged the huge favourite to land the accolade for the first time in his career following a stellar season in which he helped Makepekepe win the title.
Zvirekwi, a finalist in 2013, will be praying that his contributions finally get recognition.
The 29 year-old defender had probably the most consistent run of form this year in the green-and-white strip.
He featured regularly in the championship-winning side and missed only two league games the whole season due to suspension and injury.
But he faces stiff challenge from teammate Leonard Tsipa who also had an amazing comeback season and the FC Platinum duo of Mhari and Mhango.
“In my opinion, all the players selected deserve to be on the calendar. But I think Zvirekwi should be the Soccer Star. He has done well for the club and country. In the top three I would have Mhari, Mhango and Zvirekwi,” said Phiri.
The other players who made the 11 finalists include Liberty Chakoroma (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Clemence Matawu (Chicken Inn), Gift Mbweti (Hwange), Peter Muduhwa (Highlanders), Godknows Murwira (Dynamos), Walter Musona (FC Platinum), Tsipa and Ronald Pfumbidzai (CAPS United).
It appears it will be a CAPS United party tonight as their veteran forward Tsipa is assured of more than one podium appearance after landing the Golden Boot with 11 goals.
He has scored two more than closest rivals Gift Mbweti of Hwange and FC Platinum’s Walter Musona who also made it on the calendar.
Amazingly, Tsipa somehow managed to transform himself from a player who had been condemned after his career took a huge tumble when he was fired by the Green Machine in 2010.
Tsipa now has claimed the Golden Boot for the second time in his career.
The 34-year old forward turned the hands of time back to 2004 when he lifted the Top Goal Scorer award after netting 18 goals to lead Makepekepe to championship success under Charles Mhlauri.
The last CAPS United player to win the Soccer Star of the Year award was Malawian midfielder Joseph Kamwendo in 2005.
Their Green Machine coach Lloyd Chitembwe is almost certain to win the Coach of the Year award after leading the successful campaign.
Makepekepe had endured a barren run stretching 11 years.
Chitembwe has been credited for transforming the underachieving Green Machine outfit into champions. The former midfielder became the first CAPS United player to win the title both as player and coach.
The organisers will also honour the Goalkeeper of the Year, the Under-20 Player of the Year, the Referee of the Year and the Most Disciplined Team of the Year.
FC Platinum’s Mhari is the favourite among 22 contestants to get the Goalkeeper of the Year while rookie forward Prince Dube, who had a promising season with Highlanders, has a good chance among the Under-20 players.
The Most Disciplined Team award will be awarded to the team with the least cumulative points at the end of the season. The best referees were selected independently by the ZIFA Referees Committee. The Herald
Castle Lager Premiership 2016 Soccer Star of the Year finalists
Liberty Chakoroma (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Clemence Matawu (Chicken Inn), Gift Mbweti (Hwange), Winston Mhango (FC Platinum), Petros Mhari (FC Platinum), Peter Muduhwa (Highlanders), Godknows Murwira (Dynamos), Walter Musona (FC Platinum), Ronald Pfumbidzai (CAPS United), Leonard Tsipa (CAPS United), Hardlife Zvirekwi (CAPS United)