Eddie Chikamhi and Takudzwa Chitsiga—
AGELESS forward Leonard Tsipa led a trio of CAPS United players who were named among the 11 finalists for this season’s Soccer Stars of the Year list as they were rewarded for leading the Green Machine to their first championship in 11 years.Hardlife Zvirekwi and Ronald Pfumbidzai also made the grade, while FC Platinum — who finished second in the race — provided three players in goalkeeper Petros Mhari, midfielder Winston Mhango and forward Walter Musona.
But the absence of former Highlanders talisman Bruce Kangwa, who failed to even make it among the top 20 players, will provide a big talking point in what was, compared to previous seasons, a largely fair selection process.
Kangwa’s fans will feel betrayed by those who cast the votes yesterday, given that he played a starring role for Bosso before he left the club for greener pastures in Tanzania, with his performance in the first half of the season good enough even for him to challenge for the Soccer Star of the Year award.
His former teammate Rahman Kutsanzira also just fell short by a vote or two, while Dynamos defender Obey Mwerahari should also feel unlucky not to have made the list, given his strong showing in a poor season for the Glamour Boys.
The best three players will be unveiled in Harare on Friday.
FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza hailed the selection of three of his players among the 11 finalists.
“With what happened today, it really shows the good work we are putting in football. Having three players among the best 11 to me, as a coach, is a massive achievement,” said Mapeza.
“I remember also in 2008 when we won the league with Monomotapa and I had three guys on the calendar. I had Mthulisi Maphosa, Godfrey Mangove; the goalkeeper and Daniel Zokoto.
“Last year, with FC Platinum we had Brian Muzondiwa and this year we have three players. So we are in the right direction.”
The former Warriors gaffer said the selection was fair.
Newboys Ngezi Platinum skipper Liberty Chakoroma, Clemence Matawu (Chicken Inn), Gift Mbweti (Hwange), Peter Muduhwa (Highlanders) and Godknows Murwira (Dynamos) also got the recognition.
Lloyd Chitembwe, who is favourite to land the Coach of the Year award, hailed his Makepekepe players who made it among the final 11.
“I am happy to have some of my players on the final 11 and I hope one or two of them will win it. The guys did well and they worked hard and all things being fair, they deserve to be rewarded.
“We are happy for both the championship and managing to have players on the calendar and I am satisfied that those who were seen as the best made it,” said Chitembwe.
According to the convener of selectors Steve Vickers, the trio of Kutsanzira, Kudakwashe Gurure and Talent Chawapihwa narrowly missed out on the final list.
There was also no place for Kangwa, who was brilliant before leaving for Tanzania midway through the season.
Kangwa won a hattrick of Player of the Month awards from April to June and was the driving force behind Bosso’s campaign.
The fact that he featured in more than the required 10 games made him eligible.
Highlanders had only Muduhwa among the finalists and their coach Erol Akbay felt they deserved more.
The Dutch coach said midfielders Simon Munawa and Kutsanzira also had great season.
“I believe it was a fair selection. But I had also hoped that Rahman Kutsanzira and Simon Munawa would also be there because those guys did very
well for the team and they also deserved such recognition.
“It’s a sad thing to lose with one or two votes like what Rahman did. But I am very proud of him, he was almost always in the first 11. Of course everything can’t go your way but I am happy for Peter,” said Akbay.
Dynamos coach Lloyd Mutasa said it was fair that the Harare giants, who struggled this year, had one representative.
Mutasa said his vote for the top three would go to Zvirekwi, Mhari and Tsipa.
“Overall team performances become very key to such accolades as well. People would look at what contributions these players have given to the success of their teams. That is why CAPS United and FC Platinum have dominated the list.
“For us, I think it’s fair to have Godknows because we were number five. I think he had a good season by his standards. We used him as a utility player this year when we had some problems,” said Mutasa.
Ngezi Platinum skipper Chakoroma was the biggest beneficiary of the review of the selection rules on discipline as his seven yellow cards would previously have disqualified him.
In the past, a player who accumulated six or more yellows would not be eligible. This year, the threshold was 10 points.
A yellow card is one point while a red card has two points.
Dynamos midfielder Dominic Mukandi was the only player who was ineligible for the vote with four yellows and a red card.
Relegated Border Strikers coach Luke “Vahombe” Masomere tipped veteran Tsipa to win this year’s Soccer Star award.
“I believe he did well at his age and that should come as a challenge to the up and coming strikers.
“The selection process was very partial and recommendable.
“Of course, there are some players who you would feel should be among the 11, but we are limited and those that got on the calendar really deserve it.
“There is also an issue of players relaxing after being selected and I commend Clemence Matawu for making it two in a row,” said Masomere.
Matawu, who won the 2006 gong while at Motor Action, was the only player who retained his place on the calendar after he made it again last year.
Highlanders captain Felix Chindungwe bemoaned lack of consistence with local players but attributed that to pressure from other commitments.
“The problem here is that soccer is not paying that much, so it is difficult for the players to concentrate on that alone. Most players are family men and they cannot only focus on playing football as sometimes they will shift attention to other means of survival.
“Thumbs up to Matawu who managed to retain his place on the calendar. That calls for total commitment and hard work,” said Chindungwe.
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).