By Eddie Chikamhi
Chicken Inn skipper Clemence Matawu was yesterday presented with a befitting birthday present when he was chosen among the XI Soccer Stars of the Year finalists for the sixth time in a milestone achievement that sees him join a small exclusive club of some of the country’s clubs.
The Bindura-born midfield magician, who turns 35 today, has refused to be slowed down by age and was yesterday elated after making it to the calendar for the third time in a row in recent times.
He had previously made the short-list in 2003, 2004 and in 2006 when he was crowned the king of domestic football. The latest milestone also gives The Naughty Flea the most appearances on the calendar since the establishment of the Premiership in 1992.
“I never saw it coming but I am very happy to be part of this exclusive group. I am someone who has the love and passion and one who enjoys playing football.
“Secondly, I work hard for everything, especially with regards to my football career. I make sure that I stay in shape. But, personally, I don’t think this was one of my best seasons. I feel I should have done more and scored more goals.
“As a team we did quite well and our campaign was disrupted when we experienced a dip in form by losing three consecutive matches against Highlanders, Yadah and CAPS United. That slump ultimately defined our season. But I am just hoping we will come back stronger next year,” said Matawu.
However, his Chicken Inn teammate and co-captain Moses Jackson, at 36, is the oldest player on the Soccer Stars list chosen by the selection panel yesterday while 23-year old Terrence Dzvukamanja of Ngezi Platinum Stars is the youngest.
The other finalists are Cameroonian Christian Epoupa Ntouba and Ocean Mushure (both Dynamos), Dominic Chungwa and Devon Chafa (CAPS United), Kelvin Moyo and Rodwell Chinyengetere (FC Platinum), Tichaona Mabvura and Qadr Amini (Ngezi Platinum).
Interestingly, only the top five teams at the end of the season have contributed the players on the calendar and Ngezi Platinum dominated with three finalists. Dynamos, CAPS United, Chicken Inn and champions FC Platinum had two each.
FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza and midfielder Chinyegetere were also chosen Coach and Player of the Month of November by the selection panel of journalists.
The overall winner of the Soccer Star award and his two runner-ups will be made public at a banquet set for December 8. The panel also chose the Coach of the Year which looked a tight contest between Mapeza and Lloyd Mutasa of Dynamos.
The results will also be announced at the banquet together with the Most Promising Player award winner which saw the likes of Yadah’s Leeroy Mavhunga, Delic Murimba (Hwange), Nyasha Garayi (Bantu Rovers), Clive Rupiya (Bulawayo City), Tatenda Mchisa (Ngezi) and Bukhosi Ncube (Highlanders) among the participants.
Black Rhinos defensive midfielder Donald Mudadi and Milton Ncube of How Mine are the only two players that were ineligible for the selection because of excessive bookings.
And, for the first time in many years, there was no goalkeeper among the top eleven. The panel are not tasked with choosing the best team and this means there can be 11 goalkeepers on the calendar.
However, the panel comprising journalists, coaches and club captains, selected the Best Goalkeeper separately to be announced at the end-of-year ceremony.
The best referee will be selected by the ZIFA Referees Committee. ZIFA Technical Director Wilson Mutekede welcomed yesterday’s selection.
“I think it was quite a splendid process. The way it is being done now with the electronic voting and the composition of the electorate is quite credible.
I think this was quite a perfect process. But there is an anomaly where for the first time we are not finding a goalkeeper in there. However, there have also been instances in the past when we had two or more goalkeepers on the calendar.
“So, taking it from that context, it also reflects transparency when we don’t find a goalkeeper on the list. Yes, we might cry foul but we also should have cried foul when more than one goalkeeper made the calendar.
“I also realised that, maybe, because of the intensity of activity and action happening towards at the end of the season we tend to overlook early performers. People will always remember those that were performing towards the end of the season,” said Mtekede.
2017 Soccer Star Finalists
Christian Joel Epoupa Ntouba, Ocean Mushure (Dynamos), Devon Chafa, Dominic Chungwa (CAPS United), Kelvin Moyo, Rodwell Chinyengetere (FC Platinum), Moses Jackson, Clemence Matawu (Chicken Inn), Qadr Amini, Terrence Dzvukamanja, Tichaona Mabvura (Ngezi Platinum). The Herald