The Sunday Mail
Ishemunyoro Chingwere in Bulawayo
CAPS United and Zimbabwe right-back Hardlife Zvirekwi’s case for the 2016 Castle Lager Soccer Star of the Year Award gets its serious traction from the pint-sized star’s central role in Makepekepe’s most amazing league run in a decade.
A panel of head coaches and captains from the league’s 16 teams will join selected sports journalists in Harare on Tuesday to select this year’s 11 finest footballers, with the man that takes over from Danny “Deco” Phiri set to be unveiled on Saturday.
Another Caps player who is in with a strong shout for the Soccer Star of the Year Award is 34-year-old striker Leonard Tsipa, though his league-high goal tally (11 at the time of writing) came in a season of personal fits and starts.
FC Platinum’s Petros Mhari is another close contender with 17 clean sheets, but the panel of selectors will probably argue that the goalie was the beneficiary of a water tight defence line well-marshaled by Gift Bello and Kelvin Moyo.Such is the plight of ‘keepers and defenders when it comes to awards: people rarely give them individual credit.
Caps United coach Lloyd Chitembwe said it would be difficult for the panel of selectors to find an alternative to the 29-year-old wing-back.“Why not?” Chitembwe queried when asked about Zvirekwi’s Castle Lager Soccer Star prospects. “With due respect to all other players in the league, Hardy is one player whose consistency for both club and country is shocking.
“He has played over 2 300 minutes this season with the same consistence and I think he really deserves it. His form is also a result of the support he has gotten from this football club (Caps United) and his teammates, so I think he owes it to the Caps family,” said Chitembwe.
George Nechironga, who took home the Soccer Star of the Year honours in Caps colours in 1990 also feels Zvirekwi has been head and shoulders above the rest of the fold.“I have attended a number of games in Harare, the level is not at all exciting … (but) one man (who) stood above the rest was Hardlife Zvirekwi.
The boy has played really well,” he told our sister publication, SportsZone.Nechironga will know what he is talking about, having matched the legendary Peter Ndlovu in the 1990 season resulting in the two jointly winning that year’s Soccer Star of the Year Award.
“He is the only player worth mentioning in my opinion. Tsipa also did well, (as well as) the FC Platinum captain Petros Mhari,” he said.While selection is exclusively limited to performances in the league, that Zvirekwi is the only locally-based player whose position in a full-strength Warriors squad could sway votes in his favour.
Zvirekwi missed just two league matches in Caps United’s 30-match marathon. On May 25 Chitembwe’s men were forced to do without their former captain through injury but they went on to win the match against 2015 champions Chicken Inn.
They were held to a goalless draw by Hwange at the Colliery with Zvirekwi suspended on August 14.