Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
DONOVAN Bernard was expected to make it into the 2022 Soccer Stars of the Year calendar.
The agile Chicken Inn goalkeeper has had a fantastic season despite failing to inspire the Gamecocks to Premiership glory.
The Bulawayo side finished in second place behind winners FC Platinum as they showed just enough character to pip Dynamos in an intriguing second-place race.
And most of the credit should go to their shot-stopper Bernard who kept out 18 clean sheets in 31 games.
He almost left Chicken Inn midway through the season to join South African lower division side Tshakuma Tsha Madzivhandila.
But, the move couldn’t sail through, thanks to unfavorable terms tabled by the South African outfit.
That meant Bernard had to fly back home to reclaim his place at Chicken Inn from understudy Pride Zendera.
The latter had a disastrous three-game stint, shipping seven goals and the return of Bernard was more than welcome by the Chicken Inn faithful.
Bernard, in terms of clean sheets kept, was amongst the top four which include Dynamos’ Taimon Mvula, Nelson Chadya of Chicken Inn and FC Platinum’s Taimon Magalane.
Chadya and Magalane made it on the calendar but a good number of analysts questioned the exclusion of Bernard and Mvula from the list.
Bernard’s team only provided Brian Muza on the best 11 players despite the fact that the league debutant went quiet in the second half of the season.
The goalkeeper has, however, been honoured by his team after he was named the Player of the Year during the club’s awards ceremony on Wednesday night in Bulawayo.
He was the overwhelming favourite to get the gong given his outstanding performances for a team which has always been in the title mix since winning their first and only championship in 2015.
Bernard would feel compensated for missing out on the Soccer Stars’ calendar given he was rewarded with US$1 000, almost the same amount to be given to the Soccer Stars of the Year finalists.
Son of the legendary late Black Aces goalkeeper Mirirai Bernard, who won the 1992 Premiership honours under Steve “The Dude” Kwashi, the 27-year-old said he was looking forward to making it to the calendar.
“Let me make it very clear. I am a young man who respects decisions. The calendar is for only 11 players and I would like to congratulate all of those who made it.
“One of my ambitions is to one day make it into that list. I will continue working very hard to try and make the calendar.
“Let me also hasten to say I have so much respect for the two goalkeepers (Chadya and Magalane) who made it to the calendar. It shows that our department is improving in many ways than one. I feel honoured and humbled to have been named the Chicken Inn’s MVP. For me, that means the world,” Donovan said.
“Look, Chicken Inn is my home and we are family with each and every member of that team. It is those members, players, fans and officials who improve me every day.
“And to be named as the Player of the Year in a team I have so much attachment to feels like heaven.
“I would like to salute my teammates for the role they play around me. Without their efforts I wouldn’t be seeing all this glory.”
Left-back Xolani Ndlovu walked away with the Players’ Player of the Year getting US$700 for his efforts while new-boy Richard Hachiro took home the Most Disciplined Player’s crown and walked away US$250 richer.
Soccer Stars of the Year finalist Muza, who scored 11 goals, got US$650 for being the team’s top scorer while Itai Mabhunu, who was good enough to make The Herald’s best team for the first half of the season, got the Most Improved Player’s medal which carried with it US$300.
Enterprising Arthur Chinda won the Most Promising Player’s accolade and received US$250.
The ageless Moses Jackson, who at 41 is still going strong, received the Chairman’s US$250 worth Most Loyal Player award with Bret Amidu’s last gasp winner against CAPS United in the Gamecock’s 2-1 second leg victory against CAPS United voted the Goal of the Season.
Amidu, who received a cool US$600 for the achievement, broke the hearts of CAPS United fans last month when he unleashed a screamer that beat goalkeeper Tonderai Mateyaunga to complete a come-from-behind win for the hosts.
Chicken Inn awards
Player of the Year: Donovan Bernard
Players’ Player: Xolani Ndlovu
Most Disciplined Player: Richard Hachiro
Most Promising Player: Arthur Chinda
Most Improved Player: Itai Mabhunu
Goal of the Year: Brett Amidu
Top Goal Scorer: Brian Muza