The Sunday Mail
NEWLY crowned Castle Lager Soccer Star of the Year Danny “Deco” Phiri was pleasantly surprised to win local football’s most prestigious individual accolade despite his undisputed rise to the throne that usually divides local football enthusiasts.
The 26-year-old took over the reins from ZPC Kariba defender Dennis Dauda at a glittering ceremony in the capital on Friday night on the back of a league title winning season with Chicken Inn.
Phiri joined the Gamecocks in 2011 from Bantu Rovers.
A consistent performer as a midfield pivot, providing the much needed link between defence and attack, Phiri’s efforts have often been overlooked but this year he got his reward in a season he also cemented his place in the Warriors squad where he gets starter status in a team laden with foreign based talent.
While the soccer star announcement is usually preceded by controversy over who the most deserving player is, Phiri’s exploits ensured that he stood head and shoulders above his peers and avoided such debate.
In his hour of coronation, “Deco” however, was honourable enough to note the contribution of his teammates to his success and suggested that they even deserved the top gong ahead of him.
“I am overwhelmed. I was struggling even to smile because I was not expecting to win this award,” said Phiri.
“Just being part of the 11 finalist was all I expected and even when the season started that’s what I set out to achieve. “My teammates played really well, and I thought they deserved this award. Clemence Matawu for example as well as our goalkeeper Elvis (Chipezeze) and (Edmore) Chirambadare all had a brilliant season.
“Growing up I never thought I would scale to such heights. Back in the days I would just play football for fun because it’s something which I really loved, but that doesn’t mean I was not serious about it.
“This is a result of teamwork, I am here (winner’s podium) because my teammates have pushed me here.
“Football is a team sport and there is no way I could have made it without their support,” said Deco, a graduate of Methembe Ndlovu’s increasingly reputable Bantu Rovers project. With the attention of foreign scouts that usually comes with winning the Soccer Star accolade, Phiri is also dreaming of a foreign contract but should one fail to materialise, he reckons the Chicken Inn jersey will best suit his career development.
“If I can get a foreign move to a bigger league now it would be a dream come true but then these moves are not easy to come by, so if it doesn’t happen then that’s it, I will continue at Chicken Inn. “I don’t see myself being tempted to join any local club for now,” said Phiri who will captain the local ensemble of the Warriors to the 2016 Chan finals in Rwanda next month.
The award winners
Soccer Star of the Year – Danny Phiri (Chicken Inn)
First Runner-up: Ocean Mushure (Dynamos)
Second Runner-up: Knox Mutizwa (Highlanders)
Goalkeeper of the Year: Elvis Chipezeze (Chicken Inn)
Most Promising Young Player: Tatenda Mukuruva (Dynamos)
Coach of the Year: Joey Antipas (Chicken Inn)
Referee of the Year: Nomore MusundireFirst Runner-up: Claris Simango Second Runner-up: Salani Ncube Top Goal Scorer: Knox Mutizwa Most Disciplined Team of the Year: Harare City
Castle Lager Soccer Star of the Year finalists: Danny Phiri, Elvis Chipezeze, Edmore Chirambadare, Clemence Matawu (Chicken Inn), Ocean Mushure, Tatenda Mukuruva (Dynamos), Brian Muzondiwa (FC Platinum), Stephen Makatuka (Caps United), Knox Mutizwa (Highlanders), Raphael Manuvire (ZPC Kariba)