Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
NO matter who wins the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League Soccer Star of the Year award tonight, CAPS United forward William Manondo is likely to walk home the biggest winner.
Of course, FC Platinum’s Walter Musona is the hot favourite to land the top gong following a brilliant homecoming season in Zvishavane where he was part of the championship-winning crew.
But for Manondo, having his name spoken about ahead of the season’s awards is a big achievement on its own, considering his team CAPS United spent almost the entire season in the bottom half of the table.
Makepekepe were at some point seriously involved in the relegation matrix, apart from the several off-field distractions. Despite the odds, they have a player on the calendar.
Manondo is the only CAPS United player among the 11 finalists selected by a hybrid panel comprising 50 sports journalists, 18 coaches and as many captains from all the PSL clubs a few days ago.
He is already assured to grace the podium tonight, having won the Golden Boot after scoring 17 goals in the 2021-22 season.
It is also not an exaggeration to say the forward is likely to be one of the players to give Musona a good run for his money for the big award tonight.
So the forward is likely to grace the podium three times — to receive his Golden Boot prize, the medal for making the 11 finalists and a possible top three placing.
Manondo showed excellent individual talent at CAPS United after crossing the floor from Harare City early in the season.
He finished the season with 17 goals.
His goal when he arrived at Makepekepe was to breach the 20-goal mark, something that has not been done by any local player since Norman Maroto’s 22-goal haul in 2010.
Still, CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe was swept off his feet by such a dedication.
“The most difficult thing to do is to score a goal,” said Chitembwe about Manondo.
“It’s easy to defend, easy to just play football, but not to score. William managed to score 17 goals for this team while we were struggling. Imagine if the team was doing well?”
“So, I think he deserves special mention. We also have to give credit to the team.
“They made the whole thing easy for him. William was a perfect example of a professional. His conduct at training and in matches was awesome. I never had problems with him.
“He was focused from the first day and he knew what he wanted and I am happy he managed to achieve what he wanted — to become the top goal scorer in the league.”
But Manondo’s potency has come to be overshadowed by the rebirth of Musona at FC Platinum this season. The forward, who turns 27 years this month, returned home from South Africa in February on the back of a rather disappointing stint, punctuated by injuries, in the neighbouring country.
He went on to play a central role in FC Platinum’s turnaround with 14 goals and as much as six assists on the platinum miners’ march to their fourth successive league title.
As was largely expected, champions FC Platinum dominated the final selection with three players on the shortlist with goalkeeper Wallace Magalane and veteran defender Gift Bello also in the shortlist.
Magalane kept 16 clean sheets, having stepped in to replace injured captain, Petros Mhari, in the early stages of the season while Bello was the vital cog in FC Platinum’s defence, which conceded the least goals all season. Another platinum-powered team, Ngezi Platinum Stars, have two players in goalkeeper Nelson Chadya and forward Delic Murimba.
Chadya, who kept 19 clean sheets during the season, is favourite for the Goalkeeper of the Year award. But he faces competition from Magalane, Chicken Inn’s Donovan Bernard and Taimon Mvula of Dynamos.
Organisers of the Awards also added to the excitement this year when they gave the supporters a voice to select the Fans Choice Award for the first time.
The Soccer Star of the Year and his two runners-up, the Coach of the Year, the Goalkeeper of the Year, Referee of the Year and his two runners-up, the Most Promising Under-19 Player of the Year and the Most Disciplined Team of the Year will all be honoured at the Awards banquet tonight.
FC Platinum coach, Norman Mapeza, leads the race for the Coach of the Year gong after comfortably leading the platinum miners to their fourth league title on the trot. Mapeza won the Coach of the Month accolades four times during the season.
The referees were selected by a different panel of experts and the winners will be announced at the banquet.
The Soccer Stars event is returning after a two-year hiatus caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. CAPS United’s Joel Ngodzo was the last recipient of the Soccer Star of the Year accolade in 2019.
The 2021/22 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League Soccer Star of the Year finalists:
Brian Muza (Chicken Inn), Delic Murimba (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Devine Mhindirira (Highlanders), Elie Ilunga (Black Rhinos), Frank Makarati (Dynamos), Gift Bello (FC Platinum), Nelson Chadya (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Tinotenda Benza (Herentals), Wallace Magalane (FC Platinum), Walter Musona (FC Platinum), William Manondo (CAPS United).