Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
OUTGOING Soccer Star of the Year Hardlife Zvirekwi admits he had a disappointing season with CAPS United, but is confident a deserving candidate will be crowned tomorrow night to take over the throne of best player in Zimbabwe. As the domestic football fraternity holds its breath ahead of the Soccer Star of the Year coronation, the general consensus is that 2017 has been a difficult year for many players, with no clear front-runner for the big award as players blew hot and cold throughout the season.
However, amid the mediocrity, FC Platinum’s attacking midfielder Rodwell Chinyengetere, Dynamos skipper Ocean Mushure, the ageless Clemence Matawu of Chicken Inn and CAPS United midfield strongman Devon Chafa should come in with a big shout. There are also dark horses such as Cameroonian Christian Epoupa, Tichaona Mabvura of Ngezi Platinum and FC Platinum defender Kelvin Moyo.
Zvirekwi yesterday said he would not disclose his favourite successor, but was confident that justice would prevail. “I was privileged to be part of the selection panel and I think all those guys played well. They worked hard to be on the calendar and I just wish them the best for the Soccer Star award.
“I am sure the well deserving man will be crowned on Friday night and I would like to congratulate in advance whoever is going to be named Soccer Star. He should enjoy his place in the sun with his family and friends,” said Zvirekwi. The CAPS United skipper was a clear favourite last year following a brilliant season in which he led Makepekepe to their fourth post-Independence trophy after an 11-year drought.
He was crowned ahead of runners-up Leonard Tsipa also of CAPS United and FC Platinum goalkeeper Petros Mhari. Just like many recent Soccer Stars of the Year before him, Zvirekwi, could not reproduce the form and his name has not even featured in the discussions this year. Instead, it was his teammates Dominic Chungwa and Chafa who made it.
Apart from being dogged by nagging injuries and the pressure that comes with playing in the Champions League, Zvirekwi admitted that he has been a poor copy of himself this season. “It’s always a great feeling being the Soccer Star, but it also comes with greater responsibility because you would want to protect your reputation as well as the sponsor’s brand.
“On and off the field, you have to behave accordingly. Then, most importantly, your performance has to show that you are the Soccer Star. “It’s a fact there were some factors that weighed me down, but I wouldn’t want to use them as an excuse because I don’t think I had a good season considering the standards that I set myself the previous season.
“Sometimes when it won’t be your year and there is nothing you can do about it except to go back and re-strategise. But the good thing is the Golden Boot (won by Dominic Chungwa) remains in the family. We are a team that thrives on creating many scoring opportunities and I am happy for Dominic for having done his job better than anyone else,” said Zvirekwi.
Chicken Inn’s ageless midfielder Matawu is the only player who has retained his place on the calendar. And as the PSL celebrate their Silver Jubilee, Matawu also underlined himself with a new record of the most appearances since 1992 after he was named among the finalists for the sixth time in a career spanning 16 years.
The organisers will also announce the winner of the Coach of the Year award which looks a close contest between championship winning coach Norman Mapeza and Lloyd Mutasa of Dynamos.
The Goalkeeper of the Year also has interesting competition as favourites Elvis Chipezeze of Chicken Inn, FC Platinum newboy Wallace Magalane, Hebert Rusawo (Black Rhinos) and Dynamos’ Tonderai Mateyaunga keep their fingers crossed.
The Most Promising Player in the Under-20 category will also be recognised. This is a difficult one as Yadah’s Leeroy Mavhunga, Delic Murimba (Hwange), Nyasha Garayi (Bantu Rovers), Clive Rupiya (Bulawayo City), Tatenda Mchisa (Ngezi) and national Under-20 captain Bukhosi Ncube (Highlanders) are all vying for the accolade.
The selection of the best referee is done by the ZIFA Referees Committee, who gave the award to Ruzive Ruzive last year. 2017 Soccer Star of the Year 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).