HARARE – CAPS United defender Hardlife Zvirekwi’s reign as the Castle Lager Premiership Soccer Star ends when his successor is inducted into the elite club at a ceremony set for a local hotel in the capital tonight.
Zvirekwi had a relatively quiet season by his high standards and was plagued by fatigue as he rarely had an off season for the past three years due to his involvement with the national team.
The Makepekepe utility player even failed to make it on the shortlist this year largely due to subdued performances for the Green Machine.
In a rather average season for most Premiership players, there has to be a winner and who will walk away with the big award remains to be seen this evening in what promises to be a glittering ceremony.
The Soccer Stars selection was done last month by a panel of football writers, club coaches and captains, who met in the capital to pick XI players who make up the finalists of this year’s award.
What is only left is for the top three players to be announced at tonight’s banquet.
It appears there is going to be a tight call between players such as FC Platinum’s Rodwell Chinyengetere, Dynamos’ Ocean Mushure, Tichaona Mabvura of Ngezi Platinum Stars and CAPS United’s Devon Chafa.
Other contenders are FC Platinum defender Kelvin Moyo, Chicken Inn’s Moses Jackson as well as Dynamos’ Cameroonian striker Christian Ntouba.
Chinyengetere started the season quietly but blossomed in the second half of the season where he was the leading light in the FC Platinum attack.
The former Hwange forward finished the season with nine goals as he helped his side to become the first team outside Harare or Bulawayo to win the league title.
His teammate Kelvin Moyo also had a memorable season at the heart of Pure Platinum Play’s defence.
Apart from providing a reliable shield at the back, the left-footed centre back also scored some crucial goals to steer the Zvishavane-based side to league title glory.
Mushure also had a good season with the Glamour Boys as he blossomed after coach Lloyd Mutasa pushed him forward in a advanced role in midfield.
The DeMbare skipper scored a number of memorable goals especially from dead-ball situations to help his side finish in second place just two points behind FC Platinum.
Ntouba illuminated the local Premiership with his goal scoring prowess especially in the first half of the season.
The Cameroonian was unplayable in some games as he used his physical stature to bully defenders.
Ntouba could have scored more than the 12 goals he managed in his maiden season in Zimbabwe had he found the back of the net more regularly in the second half of the season.
Mabvura was arguably the reason why Ngezi Platinum launched a sustained assault on the Castle Lager Premiership title before finishing in third place.
The midfielder was the heartbeat of Tonderai Ndiraya’s team this season in which he finished with seven goals and assists 13.
While CAPS United struggled to juggle between the domestic campaign and their African Champions League commitments, Chafa emerged as the midfield beast.
He never put a foot wrong in what was a demanding season for the Green Machine making him one of the favourites to land the top gong tonight.
CAPS United’s Dominic Chungwa has already been confirmed the Golden Boot winner after finishing the season with 17 goals.
Chungwa is also in the running for the Soccer Star award after making in on the finalists’ list.
Although Chicken Inn unravelled in the dying stages of the season, Jackson had already done enough to earn the plaudits of football followers.
He was solid at the back and a major threat when going forward as he chipped in with some important goals.
Delta Beverages, who are official sponsors of the Premiership, are also bankrolling tonight’s awards where the winner is guaranteed to pocket $5 000.
His two runners-up will get $3 000 and $2 000 respectively while the rest of the finalists take home $1 500 each.
The Coach of the Year, Rookie of the Year and the Referee of the Year will also be honoured at the same event.
It appears a two-horse race between FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza and Dynamos’ Lloyd Mutasa for the top award.
Mapeza led the platinum miners to their maiden championship in an intriguing race which involved DeMbare who had to settle for second finishing two points behind the newly crowned champions.
Shabanie Mine’s Takesure Chiragwi is also being mentioned in some sections for the manner in which he led the Chinda Boys to escape the chop in dramatic fashion.
Mutasa is being credited for salvaging what looked like a lost season for the Glamour Boys with a relatively average side made up of mostly misfits assembled at the start of the season.
There is also an award for the Goalkeeper of the Year with FC Platinum’s Wallace Magalane and Chicken Inn’s Elvis Chipezeze appearing to be the two front runners.
Just like every year, the 2017 Soccer Star of the Year selection created lot of debate after the selectors did not considered a goalkeeper to be part of the best XI.
Ever since the awards started, a goalkeeper has always been part of the crème dela crème of domestic football.
2017 Soccer Stars finalists: Christian Ntouba, Clemence Matawu, Devon Chafa, Dominic Chungwa, Kelvin Moyo, Moses Jackson, Ocean Mushure, Qadr Amini, Rodwell Chinyengetere, Terence Dzvukamanja, Tichaona Mabvura.