Eddie Chikamhi Senior Sports Reporter
AFTER months of waiting, the identity of this year’s Castle Lager Premier Soccer League king will be unveiled with ageless Chicken Inn midfielder Clemence Matawu among top contenders for the accolade.
Matawu won the award before leading modest Motor Action to glory and tonight he will write his own piece of history when he makes it for the sixth time to attend the awards gala as a Soccer Star finalist. The veteran midfielder is the only survivor from last year’s calendar, a sign of his consistency despite being above 30 years of age.
In a season in which there was no clear stand out player, Matawu still starred for the Gamecocks with his exploits earning a slot on the 11 finalists. A close contest is on the cards for the Premiership king, with Dynamos skipper Ocean Mushure’s name also featuring prominently.
The battle for the big award should be between FC Platinum midfielder Rodwell Chinyengetere, who is a favourite to end the season on a high after helping the Zvishavane side win their maiden league title ahead of Dynamos and Ngezi Platinum Stars and DeMbare skipper Ocean Mushure.
Chinyengetere played a pivotal role in the platinum miners’ quest especially in the second half of the season where he also weighed in with some crucial goals to push his tally to nine goals. The former Warriors man was also voted player of the Month for November ahead of teammate Kelvin Moyo, who is a dark horse for the top three.
Warriors defender Mushure was the engine that drove the Glamour Boys and was instrumental even during the dark days after he was given a more attacking role by coach Lloyd Mutasa. The PSL and their sponsors were yesterday running around with the final touches for what promises to be a glamour evening in which the league also celebrates their Silver Jubilee.
And to cap what should be a memorable night for the domestic game, the PSL invited Zimbabwe legend Peter Ndlovu who is expected to fly into the country from his base in South Africa this morning.
Ndlovu, a rare breed of player who won the award twice before he even turned 20 and subsequently leaving for England in the early 1990s, has been invited as guest of honour. The organisers are expecting a flawless event, with much improvements from the previous galas.
Musician Cindy Munyavi will officially get the programme underway with a rendition of the national anthem. The 2017 Soccer Star of the Year awards coincides with the Silver Jubilee celebrations to mark the journey the domestic football has travelled since the formation of the league 25 years ago.
Delta Beverages marketing manager Patricia Murambinda also spoke highly of Ndlovu who twice captained the Warriors to the African Cup of Nations in 2014 and 2016.
“He is a legend of Zimbabwean football. He played the game at a high level. He is also a former winner of the Soccer Star of the Year awards and we felt that the upcoming players can learn something valuable from him.
“His words of wisdom will surely help inspire the players to aim higher,” said Murambinda.
Apart from the likes of Mushure, Matawu and Chinyengetere, there are also a number of dark horses in the race for the top gong. These include former Dynamos man Tichaona Mabvura who finally showed his potential at Ngezi Platinum Stars and CAPS United midfielder Devon Chafa, who had a late flourish.
The selection panel last week short-listed the best eleven which also has Cameroonian Christian Joel Epoupa Ntouba (Dynamos), Dominic Chungwa (CAPS United), Moses Jackson (Chicken Inn), Qadr Amini and Terrence Dzvukamanja (Ngezi Platinum).
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.
CAPS United’s Chungwa is guaranteed the automatic choice for the Golden Boot award after finishing the season with 17 goals. This was an improvement from last year’s 11 that won his former teammate Leonard Tsipa the Top Goalscorer awards.
The league though has expanded from 16 to 18 teams. The Most Promising Player in the Under-20 category will also be recognised. A close contest looms in that section 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 was done by the ZIFA Referees Committee.
2017 Soccer Star 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).