IN a season that was hard to pick out standout performers, the goal-scoring exploits of Caps United’s William Manondo and FC Platinum’s Walter Musona thrust them as firm favourites for the Soccer Star of the Year which will be announced at a banquet in Harare this evening.
The winner, his first and second runners-up will be announced from the 11 finalists chosen last month.
The battle for the top gong is between Manondo and Musona, whose goals helped their clubs achieve different objectives.
Musona, who returned from a stint in South Africa, banged in 14 goals with six assists to help power FC Platinum to their fourth consecutive league title.
It was his first league championship and he is the favourite to claim the 48th Castle Lager Soccer Star of the Year accolade.
The 26-year-old had a slow start to the season, but once he got into the groove, he proved an inspirational figure as the Zvishavane side closed an 11-point gap on their league challengers Dynamos to eventually win the title with three games to spare.
Of his 14 goals, half of them were decisive in winning his side matches.
His biggest threat to the throne is Manondo, who scored 17 goals and had 12 assists in a season his Caps United side struggled financially throughout, and their performance on the field showed.
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The Green Machine had the striker’s goals to thank in their fight against relegation as the former Harare City man scored exactly half of his club’s total goals.
Most neutrals believe that his exploits under those very difficult conditions should sway the vote in his favour. He also missed the teams’ first two matches of the season.
Herentals coach Kumbirai Mutiwekuziva, regarded as one of the best coaching brains on the local scene, believes the Caps United forward deserve the award more than all of his competitors.
“A player who performed with consistency throughout the season deserves it. I think the Caps United forward did just that, so I tip William Manondo to win it,” Mutiwekuziva told NewsDay Sport.
Caps United coach Lloyd Chitembwe also acknowledges that his star player had an outstanding season to “deserve a special mention”.
“The most difficult thing in football is to score a goal. It’s easy to defend, to assist or to just play football, but it’s not so easy to score. For him to score 17 goals in this season when the team was struggling, one can only imagine if the team was doing well. I think he deserves a special mention,” Chitembwe said.
“I also want to give credit to the entire team, they made it easy for him. Widzo was a perfect professional in his conduct in training and in matches. Off field, I never had a problem with William, even on the pitch because he was just focused. He is someone who really knew what he wanted this season and I’m happy he managed to achieve what he always wanted to achieve, being the top goalscorer in this country.”
There are also dark horses in the race for the big title, with Dynamos defender Frank Makarati in the reckoning, while Highlanders star midfielder Devine Mhindirira should not be ruled out as well.
Organisers of the awards have also decided to spruce up the ceremony by introducing the Fans’ Player Of The Season, which is voted in by the supporters.
The winner of the Soccer Star of the Year gong will succeed Joel “Josta” Ngodzo, who won it in 2019 when it was last held.
The 2020 domestic football league failed to kick off due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
At the same banquet, the Coach, Goalkeeper, Young Player and Referee of the Year awards will also be handed out.
FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza is the frontrunner for the Coach of the Year award, while his goalkeeper Wallace Magalane is favourite to land the Goalkeeper of the Year accolade, although he is facing a challenge from Ngezi Platinum’s Nelson Chadya and Dynamos’ Taimon Mvula.
WhaWha striker Jayden Barake had a good season for the relegated side and it will not be a surprise to see him scoop the Most Promising (Under-19) Player of the Season.
The award finalists were voted for by a panel of 50 journalists, 18 Premier League coaches and their club captains.
Referee of the Year and the Most Disciplined Team will also be honoured at the banquet.
The 2021/2022 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League Soccer Star of the Year finalists
Brian Muza, Delic Murimba, Devine Mhindirira, Elie Ilunga, Frank Makarati, Gift Bello, Nelson Chadya, Tinotenda Benza, Wallace Magalane, Walter Musona, William Manondo