By Sheldon Hakata
THE best player of the Premier Soccer League (PSL) season (Soccer Star-of-the-Year) in Zimbabwean football is honoured annually.
The current Castle Lager PSL sponsors, Delta Beverages, will also honour the first and second runners-up, as well as other eight finalists
The Soccer Star-of-the-Year award was first presented at the end of the 1969 Rhodesian soccer season.
It was known then as the Rhodesian Soccer Star-of-the-Year.
In 1980, after independence, it changed to Zimbabwe Soccer-Star-of-the-Year.
The winner is chosen at the end of the season through votes from football writers around the country and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the soccer awards, marking a Golden Jubilee since the first winner, the immortal George Shaya.
Shaya played for Dynamos and was crowned Soccer Star-of-the-Year five times in 1969, 1972 and three times in a row from 1975 to 1977.
It is an award great players like Joel Shambo, Madinda Ndlovu, Willard Mashinkila-Khumalo, David Mwanza, Joe Mugabe and even Sunday ‘Mhofu’ Chidzambwa failed to win.
Football standards in the country, however, have spectacularly dropped over the years and in a bid to ensure continuity, players of questionable pedigree now grace this prestigious calendar.
The Soccer Star-of-the-Year award has attracted its fair share of controversy in recent years.
In the 1998-1999 soccer season, controversy during the selection process led to the awards ceremony being stopped.
Remember in 2012, the awards came laced with allegations of favouritism!
Controversy marred Denver Mukamba’s win of the 2012 Castle Lager PSL Soccer Star-of-the-Year award.
There will also be awards for Coach-of-the-Year, Goalkeeper-of-the-Year, Most Promising Under-20 Player-of-the-Year, Referee-of-the-Year and his first and second runners-up of the year.
Players who accumulated 10 yellow cards and/or five reds, as well as those with proven doping cases are ineligible.
But there were no such cases in the 2018 season.
Godfrey Mukambi of Dynamos and Borniface Zuberu had the highest number of cards — nine yellow cards each.
Note that only two players, George Shaya and Peter Ndlovu have won the award back-to-back.
Ndlovu, then playing for Highlanders, won in 1990 and 1991 consecutively.
CAPS United dazzling right winger, Stanley ‘Sinyo’ Ndunduma, also won the award twice.
He won playing, first, for CAPS United in 1981 and, later, for Black Rhinos in 1985.
Malawian midfielder Joseph Kamwendo is the only foreign player to have won the award in 2005 while playing for CAPS United.
Dynamos players, Ernest Kamba (1973), David Mandigora (1980), Japhet Muparutsa (1982), Moses Chunga (1986), Memory Mucherahowa (1994), Tauya Murehwa (1995), Murape Murape (2007), Washington Arubi (2011), Denver Mukamba (2012) and Tawanda Muparati (2013) have previously won the award.
CAPS United weighed in with some splendid performance from players such as Shacky Tauro (1979), George Nechironga (1990), Stewart Murisa (1996), Energy Murambadoro (2003), Cephas Chimedza (2004), Joseph Kamwendo (2006) and Hardlife Zvirekwi in 2016.
The award has been won outside Harare 15 times since its inception by Tendai Chieza (Mangula, 1970), Moses Moyo (1974, Zimbabwe Saints), Ephert Lungu (Rio Tinto, 1983), James Takavada (Ziscosteel, 1984), Ephraim Chawanda (Zimbabwe Saints, 1988), Agent Sawu (Zimbabwe Saints, 1993), Walter Chuma (Wankie, 1997), Zenzo Moyo (Highlanders, 2000), Maxwell Dube (Chapungu, 2001) and Dazzy Kapenya (Highlanders, 2002).
Evans Chikwaikwai (Njube Sundowns, 2008), Dennis Dauda (ZPC Kariba, 2014), Danny Phiri (Chicken Inn, 2015) and Rodwell Chinyengetere (FC Platinum, 2017) all won playing outside Harare.
This season, Dynamos failed to produce players fit for the Soccer Star-of-the-Year calendar
Highlanders have one – Ariel Sibanda — who kept an impressive 16 clean sheets in the season.
CAPS United have one – Joel Ngodzo, while Dynamos have none.
Reigning PSL champions, FC Platinum provided the highest number of players on the 2018 soccer stars list.
Reigning Soccer Star-of-the-Year Rodwell Chinyengetere and teammate, Kelvin Moyo, who was the second runner-up last year as well as Farai Madhanhanga all made it into the final 11.
Pundits contend Chinyengetere might win the award again this year.
He finished the season as the league’s top goal scorer.
Others are also tipping Lameck Nhamo or Kelvin Moyo to walk away with the prestigious award.
The eleven players said to have excelled this year were picked by a panel of selected journalists, club captains and coaches at Mandel Training Centre on Thursday last week.
Chicken Inn Player-of-the-Year, Innocent Mucheneka, is also among the country’s best 11.
League runners-up Ngezi Platinum Stars provided Michael Charamba and Godknows Murwira.
ZPC Kariba have David Temwanjira.
Herentals’ Tinotenda Benza and Norman Mapeza are strong contenders for the Rookie-of-the-Year and Coach-of-the-Year awards respectively.
It has been a relatively competitive season which saw the destiny of the championship being decided with two games to spare.
The question lingering in the minds of soccer fans across the country is: Who will bag the prestigious award this year?