Who has been the best player in the 2017 Castle Lager Premier League Season?
BY MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
Names likely to be featuring most on the lips of many a football enthusiast include that of CAPS United striker Dominic Chungwa, Christian Epoupa (Dynamos), the FC Platinum pair of Kelvin Moyo and Rodwell Chinyengetere, Tichaona Mabvura of Ngezi Platinum along with teammate Qadr Amini as well as Moses Jackson (Chicken Inn) and Lot Chiwunga from Black Rhinos, to mention a few.
But it will not be long before the league’s best players are revealed.
After the league season ended yesterday, debate on who has been the best player in the local top flight football is set to scale dizzy heights and ultimately dominate bar talk for the next few days.
Sports journalists, club coaches and captains are set to come up with the list of the 11 best players from the just-ended contest at the annual 2017 Soccer Star of the Year selection meeting to be held on November 28 in Harare.
It’s that unusual season where there is no overwhelming favourite to land the big prize or one player who has outstandingly been a cut above the rest.
But nevertheless, the job will still have to be done yet again through an electronic voting system supervised by a panel of experts, who include sports editors, football stakeholders, as well as auditors.
Not many people would have thought top scorer Chungwa would be in contention for the Golden Boot and let alone, be a contender for the Soccer Star of the Year three months ago.
The striker, who had seen little game time at the defending champions, had a paltry three league goals at the start of August but a brilliant run of form saw him add 13 goals in 21 matches since then excluding this weekend’s final round of fixtures, to emerge top scorer.
CAPS United could only manage a fifth place finish in a title defence that they never really took seriously as they gave priority to the Caf Champions League competition.
Chungwa would have been a favourite to land the big one if the Harare giants had managed to successfully defend their title, but he remains a dark horse to win the coveted prize.
After losing a number of players during the mid-season break, CAPS United are likely to provide just one player on the calendar this year with reigning Soccer Star of the Year Hardlife Zvirekwi enduring a quiet season by his standard.
At the halfway stage of the league season, it looked like Dynamos striker Christian Epoupa would run away with the Golden Boot and possibly be crowned the Soccer Star of the Year for being the force behind the Glamour Boys’ impressive season.
But somehow goals dried up three months ago and the Cameroonian has been struggling to impose himself in matches and is set to miss out on the individual gongs.
Dynamos captain Ocean Mushure who has been scoring for fun, especially from free kicks, is another decent contender for the top individual award.
Mushure played the better part of the season in a more advanced position — a tactical move, which may have caused him to struggle with his game as the season wore on.
Black Rhinos reached the halfway stage of the title race as the log leaders due to the exploits of Chiwunga, who quickly adjusted to the gruels of the top flight league. While he is a sure bet to make the final 11 list, the big one is beyond his grasp. Another player who was impressive in the just-ended season for the army side was Jameson Mukombwe.
Mhondoro-based side Ngezi Platinum for a long period tipped as favourites to land the league title faltered on the finish line, falling out of the race on the penultimate weekend with a defeat to rivals FC Platinum.
One of their players Mabvura, established himself as one of the best assist makers in the land, while he also contributed to a meaningful number of goals.
Teammates Terence Dzvukamanja and Amini acquitted themselves well for the Tonderai Ndiraya-coached club and make a good appeal for the calendar.
The Zvishavane-based miners are set to contribute a bigger number of names on the Soccer Stars list following yet another solid season.
Former Hwange forward Rodwell Chinyengetere has led the Midlanders’ title charge scoring some crucial goals in this campaign and his name is being tossed around as a potential candidate for the Soccer Star of the Year award.
FC Platinum has the best defence in the league having leaked just 15 goals going into the final round of matches with Kelvin Moyo, Gift Bello and Ian Nekati emphatic in defence and deserving recognition.
Goalkeeper Wallace Magalane has also been in blinding form this season after wrestling the number one spot from 2016 Goalkeeper of the Year Petros Mhari.
Gerard Takwara and Raphael Mudhuviwa have also been impressive for the platinum miners.
Highlanders could fail to contribute to the calendar this season after a dismal season, especially after their best player in the first half of the season Prince Dube left for South Africa. Defender Peter Muduhwa has had good moments and has an outside chance of making it onto the list.
Chicken Inn, league champions in 2015, did not have a standout performer, but Captain Moses Jackson acquitted himself well, as did Innocent Muchaneka and veteran Clemence Matawu.
Traditionally, players from the so-called small teams have been overlooked and there are other players who may miss out because of the teams they play for.
Players like Tsholotsho’s Lucky Nyathi, Lameck Nhamo from Triangle, Praise Tonha (How Mine), Wellington Kamudyariwa (Yadah FC), Allen Tavarwisa (Chapungu), among many others, have had a good season.
One thing for sure, the 2017 Soccer Stars list could be completely different from the previous season, with the majority of players having had a subdued season, while others are now plying their trade across the borders.