2023 SOCCER STARS SELECTED
Tadious Manyepo-Sports Reporter
CASTLE Lager Premier Soccer League champions Ngezi Platinum Stars have underlined their sweet season by providing three players in the 2023 Soccer Stars of the Year calendar.
The 11 soccer stars were selected by a panel of journalists, coaches and captains yesterday.
The selection panel also picked the Soccer Star of the Year, his two runners-up, Coach of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year as well as the Most Promising Player under the age of 20 who will all be announced at a banquet in Harare this Friday.
Fans have also voted for a player whom they think was the best amongst the Premiership lot and again, he will be paraded and honoured at the same function on Friday.
There were no major surprises in the Best 11 as picked by the selectors although some felt that there are players who made it ahead of those whom they thought deserved to be there.
And the gods are smiling on newly crowned league champions who have laboured in vain for the past six seasons before finally getting it right this season.
The Takesure Chiragwi team provided captain Qadr Amini, goalkeeper Nelson Chadya and striker Takunda Benhura who is also the Golden Boot winner with 13 goals to his name.
Despite finishing the season on third place, giants Dynamos have two players on the calendar including soccer star favourite Donald Mudadi and his midfield colleague Tanaka Shandirwa.
Manica Diamonds, who came second in the league marathon have their top scorer Fortune Binzi who netted 10 times, amongst the country’s best players while Highlanders, who finished fifth have two players; goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda and defender Andrew Mbeba.
Chicken Inn utility Michael Charamba and Tino Benza of Herentals complete the line-up.
There was no place for last year’s winner Walter Musona of FC Platinum despite him having had a decent season where he scored seven goals and provided three assists.
Actually, despite finishing the season in the top-four, FC Platinum, who had three representatives last year failed to provide any player in this year’s calendar.
There will be debate as to why Musona, Brian Banda or Juan Mutudza failed to make it.
The same question will be asked on the likes of Simba Bhora mainstay Tinashe Balakasi who scored 10 goals in just 23 appearances with his goals saving his team from relegation.
There will be questions why there is not even a single Dynamos defender when the Glamour Boys had the best defence on land.
Maybe Emmanuel Jalai, Kevin Moyo or Frank Makarati should have made it amongst the country’s best footballers on land.
There will be questions why Moses Demera, whose 11 goals saved ZPC Kariba from the drop or his teammate Boid Mutukure, who was one of the best defenders this season, failed to break into the crème de la cream.
There will be questions why Ngezi Platinum Stars’ Gareth Madhake and Kudzai Chigwida, Bulawayo Chiefs’ Mtokhozisi Msebe, Black Rhinos’ Lot Chiwunga and Bret Amidu of Manica Diamonds were all overlooked.
But all the 11 who were selected deserved it given how they carried themselves in the league in the just-ended term.
Chadya, who won the Goalkeeper of the Year accolade last season, might have kept 17 clean sheets, two less than his rival this year Sibanda, but the 25-year-old was exemplary as he led his young colleagues with distinction as they marched all the way to the league podium.
Given there were greenhorns, some of who were playing in the league for the first time, Chadya’s leadership qualities were telling as he became more than just a goalkeeper for the Mhondoro miners.
With 19 clean sheets to his name, Sibanda was the smartest goalkeeper on land conceding just 17 goals in the entire season and it wasn’t surprising to see his name coming out after the votes.
Amini decided most of the games for Ngezi Platinum especially coming from the bench and he scored seven times while providing five assists. He was so important to the Madamburo outfit that each time he missed a match, his absence would be felt.
Actually he is one of the favourites to clinch the ultimate award.
His teammate Takunda Benhura outscored everyone in the league with his 13 goals and five assists helping Ngezi over the line and he is also tipped to win the big one.