SOCCER STAR CROWNING TODAY
Tadious Manyepo-Sports Reporter
FINALLY, the day is here.
The Premier Soccer League is tonight set to crown the 2023 Soccer Star of the Year with no clear favourite for the accolade for the first time in more than two decades.
The 11 players who illuminated the scene for the recently ended season were selected by a panel of journalists, coaches and captains on Tuesday.
Ngezi Platinum Stars, who won the championship, have the highest number on the calendar with three players coming from the Mhondoro outfit while Dynamos and Highlanders weighed with two players each.
The 11 soccer stars as voted for by the selection panel include Qadr Amini, Takunda Benhura, Nelson Chadya (all Ngezi Platinum Stars), Donald Mudadi, Tanaka Shandirwa (Dynamos), Andrew Mbeba, Ariel Sibanda (Highlanders), Tino Benza (Herentals), Fortune Binzi (Manica Diamonds) and Michael Charamba (Chicken Inn).
They also voted for the coach of the year, rookie of the year and goalkeeper of the year who will all be announced at a banquet to be held at a Harare hotel tonight.
While Ngezi Platinum Stars coach Takesure Chiragwi, who won the league title in his first full season in charge of the platinum miners, is the odds on favourite to win the gaffer of the year gong due to his outstanding tactics, the soccer star accolade is too close to call.
The same applies to the Goalkeeper of the Year as well as the Most Promising accolades.
Benhura will receive his Golden Boot reward after scoring 13 goals for the sea-son and he could as well win the Soccer Star of the Year prize.
Benhura was very popular with voters on Tuesday and his goal-scoring exploits in only his full Premiership debut season could propel him to glory.
However, it is Dynamos midfielder Donald Mudadi who might win it.
In a season where no individual really mesmerised, Mudadi was a decent entertainer with the ball on his feet.
He scored stunning goals too with his howitzer against Ngezi Platinum Stars at Baobab arguably the best goal of the season.
With five goals to his name, Mudadi was the Glamour Boys’ top-goal scorer and he also contributed three assists for the Genesis Mangombe charges.
But with Dynamos finishing the season in third place, Mudadi can never be the outright favourite in a country where the soccer star of the year has been won by a player from a club that wins the championship for the better part of the prize’s existence.
That means, if the voters maintained their pattern, Benhura, Chadya and Amini stand decent chances of claiming a place in the top three.
The Goalkeeper of the Year race is between Chadya, who is the holder and Sibanda.
If the prize was won on who kept the most clean sheets, then Sibanda would have been the winner after keeping 19 clean sheets but the fact that it is voted for could mean that Chadya will retain it although he kept two clean sheets less than his Bosso rival.
After all, Chadya ended the season as the champion and it will not be surprising if he wins the big one.
The Most Promising Player’s race is also one of the most intriguing one with the Dynamos pair of Elton Chikona and Junior Makunike most likely battling it out against Greenfuel’s Washington Mapuwa.
While both Chikona and Makunike did exceptionally well, Mapuwa was a shining example at the lowveld team scoring some important goals as the Rodwell Dhlakama team pulled to safety.