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The real Zimbabwe football heroes

It’s time to forget the politics of domestic football and if public appeal is anything to go by, then Rodwell Chinyengetere will on December 7 be crowned the 2018 Castle Lager Soccer Star of the Year.

insidesport with MICHAEL KARIATI

Rodwell Chinyengetere

The real football heroes are the players and the coaches — not those at the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) or the Premier Soccer League (PSL) — and one of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League’s modern-day heroes is surely Chinyengetere.

This is a player who has changed the course of domestic football after recovering from a double leg fracture to stamp his authority on the field of play and become Zimbabwe’s top player in the domestic game.

Although the public does not play a role in who takes the crown, the FC Platinum and Warriors striker is the people’s favourite to land a second consecutive Soccer Star of the Year crown after winning the title without any dispute in 2017.

On top of being the league’s top scorer with 17 goals, Chinyengetere was the rock from where the FC Platinum team that won the league championship was built — scoring great goals and providing chances for others in the process.

Chinyengetere also justifies his claim to being the best in domestic football with his place in Sunday Chidzambwa’s Warriors Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) setup where few locals have made an impact to get the opportunity to feature in such high-profile matches.

Should Chinyengetere take the Soccer Star crown, he will join an exclusive band of only three players who have won the award more than once since it was introduced way back in 1969 when it was won by George Shaya.

The three elite players to have achieved that feat are the legendary George Shaya himself, who won the crown a record five times in 1969, 1972, 1975, 1976 and 1977, Peter Ndlovu, who took the award in 1990 and 1991, and the late great Stanley “Sinyo” Ndunduma, who excelled in 1981 and 1985.

In fact, at the age of 30, Chinyengetere still has some years on the field of play and has a chance to win this award once more. — that is if he is not distracted by public attention.

Those who know him better will look back with pride and to the future with even higher expectations. He is one of the few locally-based players who have for years managed to maintain their place in the Warriors set-up which is so much dominated by foreign-based players.

Apart from being a member of Chidzambwa’s 2019 Afcon qualifying squad, Chinyengetere was a regular starter in Rahman Gumbo’s 2012 Afcon squad and featured against Burundi and Angola before missing the rest of the campaign through that horrific injury.

He is also one of the only four Soccer Stars of the Year over the past 12 years — alongside Washington Arubi (2011), Danny Phiri (2015) and Hardlife Zvirekwi (2016) — who have managed to command positions in the Warriors set-up when the other Soccer Stars of the Year were either never called up or failed to make the mark when given their chance.

Some of the Soccer Stars of the Year who failed to make it into the national team include Clement Matawu (2006,) Murape Murape (2007), Evans Chikwaikwai (2008), Ramson Zhuwao (2009), Charles Sibanda (2010), Tawanda Muparati (2013) and Dennis Dauda (2014) while 2012 winner Denver Mukamba was a complete flop when given his chance.

The story of Chinyengetere is one to tell the next generation. He is an inspiration to a growing band of youngsters who have decided to take up football. He has made them believe that even under the darkest of times, one can still rise to the top in football.

These are the real football heroes, not the administrators as Zimbabweans have been made to believe. The world over, football followers know Jose Mourinho, Paul Pogba and company, and not who owns Manchester United or the CEO of the club.

Yet Zimbabweans read, for example, more of who owns Caps United than the players who do the actual job on the field of play.

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