CASTLE Lager Premier Soccer League champions, Chicken Inn provided more players than any other club in this year’s Soccer Stars of the Year finalists, with four of their players making it among the 11 outstanding players of the season.
BY HENRY MHARA
The Soccer Stars of the Year selection was conducted in Harare yesterday by a panel of 59 that included club coaches, captains and sports journalists.
Chicken Inn captain Danny Phiri, the favourite to land the prestigious Soccer Star of the Year award, was joined by goalkeeper, Elvis Chipezeze, fellow midfielder, Clemence Matawu and striker, Edmore Chirambadare on the finalists.
League runners-up, Dynamos provided Ocean Mushure and Tatenda Mukuruva, while Highlanders’ Knox Mutizwa made the cut, to add on to the top goalscorer award, which he won after netting 14 goals.
Stephen Makatuka, who was solid at the back for Caps United all season, striker, Brian Muzondiwa of FC Platinum and Raphael Manuvire, who was the driving force behind ZPC Kariba’s late resurgence, are part of the finalists.
Hillary Bakacheza was the star for Triangle, as they finished fourth on the league table and was deservedly voted as one of the finalists
The Soccer Star of the Year and his first and second runners-up were also selected yesterday, but the results of that vote will only be revealed at a banquet on Friday.
It is Phiri though, who is likely to win the big prize on the basis of leading his team to their first-ever league title since promotion four years ago.
Competition for the top gong, however, will come from the likes of Matawu, Mushure and Mtizwa.
Coach, goalkeeper and promising young player of the year were also selected and their names will be announced at the banquet
Interestingly, no finalist from the previous season made it on to the calendar this time around.
At least 19 players were not eligible for selection for various offences committed throughout the season.
According to the selection rules and regulations, players who accumulated six yellow cards or two reds are not eligible for selection, as well as those who were found guilty of an offence by the Premier Soccer League (PSL) and the Zifa disciplinary committee or by the courts of the law during the course of the season.
Dynamos were the most affected, with four of their players banned from selection.
The team’s vice-captain Stephen Alimenda was found guilty and charged by PSL for assaulting a Tsholotsho official, while Takesure Chinyama and Roderick Mutuma were also found guilty for their actions after their team’s defeat in the Chibuku Super Cup final.
Dynamos defender Sydney Linyama accumulated seven yellow cards.
Relegated Dongo FC had four players ineligible for exceeding the yellow/red cards limit, with their defender Kelvin Kutandika top of the list with nine yellow cards.
Championship-winning coach, Joey Antipas, who is the favourite to win the Coach of the Year award, said was happy with the outcome of the selection.
“This was an honest and good selection because all of them on the list excelled,” he said.
When asked about his feeling about his players who made the cut, he responded: “I’m happy for them. They had a brilliant season and they thoroughly deserved it. I’m hoping we will get the soccer star from one of the four. I would like either Deco [Phiri] or Matawu to win it.”
Dynamos coach Tonderai Ndiraya and FC Platinum Norman Mapeza concurred with Antipas, saying this was a true reflection of the players’ performances throughout the season.
Castle Lager Soccer Stars of the Year finalists
Danny Phiri, Elvis Chipezeze, Edmore Chirambadare, Clemence Matawu (Chicken Inn), Ocean Mushure, Tatenda Mukuruva (Dynamos), Brian Muzondiwa (FC Platinum), Hillary Bakacheza (Triangle), Stephen Makatuka (Caps United), Knox Mutizwa (Highlanders), Raphael Manuvire (ZPC Kariba)