For two seasons, there  are no Soccer Stars

Tadious Manyepo
Sports Reporter
AT the sound of the final whistle in the final of the Chibuku Super Cup at Mandava on Sunday where FC Platinum beat Ngezi Platinum 5-3 on penalties, some debate erupted from the stands on who should be nominated the best player of this tournament.

Probably it should be Denver Mukamba, the 2012 Soccer Star of the Year, who, for years, seemed to be off the boil until he was rehabilitated by his coach Rodwell Dhlakama, whom he is providing with that X-factor in the team.

It’s a pity the 31-year-old former Dynamos and CAPS United man had to see his team settle for silver in a competition he so dominated with his bag of skills and beautiful goals.

Maybe the title should have gone to Bruno Mtigo, that speedy forward who top-scored with seven goals despite having been benched for two of Ngezi Platinum’s opening games against Triangle and Whawha.

FC Platinum goalkeeper Petros Mhari, who saved Marvellous Mukumba’s penalty that decided the final on Sunday, would have been a sure bet along with his teammates Panashe Mutimbanyoka and Kelvin Mangiza. So many names would have featured, including that of a new-found Dynamos gem Bill Antonio, Cranborne Bullets’ Wonder Kapinda and DeMbare goalie Taimon Mvula.

But that accolade is not available in the premium knock-out tournament.

That means, for two years, there will be no accolades for outstanding individual players, thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic which disrupted the routine schedule, including that for the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League’s Soccer Stars of the Year award.

In a normal year, panellists, who include selected football journalists, coaches and captains, would be scanning around, choosing the best 11 players for the season.

But, for the second year running, the function is off with the Premiership season only two games old.

There was no football played in 2020 due to the Covid-19 pandemic and this year, only the Chibuku Super Cup has been completed but it wasn’t without disturbances.

In the first place, the tournament had to be clustered with the 18 teams pooled into four groups where the top two from each section qualified for the quarter-finals.

The tournament, which started in May, had to be halted though as the Covid-19 cases soared in June before it resumed in September.

The debate on the Mandava terraces on Sunday mirrored the ones which would have been on around this time as the panellists gather to select the league’s finest 11.

The last time they did so was in December 2019 when they settled for Joel Ngodzo as the best player in the local league for that year — a move that was met with loud murmurs from the local football fraternity.

That Ngodzo’s then team CAPS United were leading the Premiership race and being the odds-on favourites to win the championship at the time of voting somehow exonerated the panellists. But, Makepekepe somehow lost their momentum in the penultimate game of the season losing to Ngezi Platinum Stars to literally hand over the title to FC Platinum who they also lost to in the last game of the season.

But the panellists were not off the mark given they have always given the Soccer Star of the Year accolade to a player from the team which would have won the league title since 2010 when Ramson Zhuwawu helped Gunners to the crown.

Having led Motor Action from the front in 2010, Charles Sibanda walked away with the gong so would Washington Arubi (2011), Mukamba (2012) and Tawanda Muparati (2013) before again the panellists were asked to vote before the conclusion of the 2014 season when they nominated Dennis Dauda for the prize at a time his ZPC Kariba were in the driving seat in the league.

But they wouldn’t cancel their usual template in 2015 with Danny Phiri winning it before Rodwell Chinyengetere also graced the podium for two consecutive times, having led FC Platinum to the Premiership crown in those two seasons. The league is still at its infancy and with the way the Covid-19 situation is at the moment, the league might as well take long to be completed.

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