BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
FORMER Warriors goalkeeper Washington Arubi is poised for a fairy-tale end to his comeback season in the South African Premiership after being nominated for The Nedbank Cup Player of the Tournament ahead of this year’s South African Premier Soccer League Awards.
The SA Premier Soccer League (PSL) yesterday announced the nominees for the 2020/21 PSL awards which will take place on June 6.
The 35-year-old veteran goalkeeper is the only Zimbabwean who will be vying for an individual accolade after being nominated along with teammate Ndabayithethwa Ndlondlo and Mamelodi Sundowns’ Peter Shalulile.
Arubi told Newsday Sport from his South Africa base yesterday that he felt honoured to be nominated ahead of some of the best goalkeepers in the Super Diski.
“I am overwhelmed by the nomination. I would like to thank God and my teammates for making it possible. It is also because of the hard work that I have put in. It is not easy because the (South African) league is full of great goalkeepers such as Dennis Onyango, Veli Mothwa, Ronwen Williams, who have been doing well for their respective clubs, but for me to get a nomination for the Nedbank Player of the tournament as a goalkeeper is a massive honour,” he said. Arubi, who missed out on nomination for the DStv Premiership Goalkeeper of the Year award despite having raked up eight clean sheets so far, said his aim now is to challenge for the top accolade in the league next season.
“This nomination has lifted my spirits and my confidence that I need to keep pushing so that next season, if God permits, I can help my team to finish on a comfortable position and also maybe challenge for the honours. I really thank everyone who has been supporting me throughout my journey. I have learnt that hard work pays and so does patience,” he said.
Arubi capped off a remarkable comeback season for South African side Tshakhuma Tsha Madzivhandila (TTM) after almost singlehandedly inspiring the Limpopo-based outfit to the Nedbank Cup title in their maiden season in the DStv Premiership.
The former Warriors goalkeeper kept clean sheets in four out of the five matches TTM played on their way to the final, where he also did not concede after a 1-0 win over Chippa United in the final last month to cap off a successful campaign.
Arubi’s major highlight in the tournament, however, came in the semi-final victory against Mamelodi Sundowns where he was named man of the match.
During the match, Arubi made some heroic saves to keep a clean sheet in regulation time and then saved Hlompho Kekana’s kick in the penalty shoot-out to secure the win. Mamelodi Sundowns coach Manqoba Mngqithi was full of praise for the Zimbabwean shot-stopper, describing him as one of the best goalkeepers in South African football.
Earlier in the competition, he also played a starring role in the quarter-finals when he saved two spot kicks in the shoot-out lottery to set up a 4-3 victory over Swallows.
Arubi has been enjoying a new lease of life at the new club after enduring two seasons of very little game time at the Kaitano Tembo-coached SuperSport United.
The evergreen Arubi arrived in South Africa to join University of Pretoria, having lifted the Soccer Star of the Year award in Zimbabwe, becoming the third local goalkeeper to win the prestigious award after the legendary Japhet Mparutsa and Energy Murambadoro.
Now, the former Zimbabwe international is basking in rave reviews in South Africa where he has become one of the best goalkeepers in that country, rekindling his hopes of a possible recall to the Warriors squad.
- Follow Daniel on Twitter @danielnhakaniso