The Sunday Mail
WHAT makes a Soccer Star of the Year finalist?
Is it about who has scored the highest number of goals, who has made the most assists or the player’s contribution to a team’s cause?
Those are some of the major talking points that have dominated debate ahead of the crowning of the 2019 Castle Lager Soccer Star of the Year at an awards banquet on December 6.
The 11 finalists who will make the calendar were announced last Wednesday, but the identity of the winner and the runners-up will only be made public during the awards dinner.
However, this has not stopped debate from raging across all interactive platforms.
The omission of players like Dynamos right back Emmanuel Jalai, CAPS United’s veteran player Method Mwanjali and Highlanders’ centre back Peter Muduhwa has been topical following the selection.
Prince Dube’s inclusion, following his late bloom for Bosso, is also as topical as the absence of more defenders on the calendar, especially in a season that has recorded an average of 1.99 goals per game.
Ian Nekati of ZPC Kariba is the only defender on the calendar and the recognition of defenders has been a subject of contention ever since the awards were introduced 50 years ago.
Only seven defenders have won the Soccer Star of the Year award since 1969 when the great George “Mastermind” Shaya bagged the inaugural gong.
When the 48th Soccer Star of the Year is made public, chances that a defender will win the gong are next to none.
In fact, defenders have a 14 percent chance of winning the Soccer Star of the Year award, if the trend in the past half century is anything to go by.
The only defenders who have won the award since 1969 are Ephert Lungu (Rio Tinto — 1983), James Takavada (Ziscosteel — 1984), Mercedes Sibanda (Highlanders — 1987), Ephraim Chawanda (Zimbabwe Saints — 1988), Dazzy Kapenya (Highlanders — 2002), Cephas Chimedza (CAPS United — 2004) and Dennis Dauda who won it with ZPC Kariba in 2014.
Does this demonstrate a selection system that has been biased towards attacking players?
The statistics as at Week 32, when the selection process was conducted, show otherwise.
There are 574 goals scored in the 288 games that have been played so far, at an average of 1.99 goals per match, which suggests that either the attacking players are not sharp enough or they underline the defenders’ qualities.
Upon reflection, one might think that FC Platinum, who have conceded the least number of goals in the league – 15 in 32 matches – would have at least provided a defensive player on the calendar.
Some of the players within the FC Platinum camp believe that the real star of their team has been veteran defender Gift Bello, yet attacking linkman Never Tigere is the one who was selected amongst the best 11 of the season last week.
Dynamos, with only six defeats and also joint with FC Platinum on the least number of losses after 32 matches anchored on a 19-game unbeaten run, also showed their defensive solidity.
Surprisingly, Dynamos provided a striker — Evans Katema — on the calendar.
During their 19-game unbeaten run, DeMbare had a total of nine 1-1 draws and four 0-0 draws, a proof that they were not a scoring team, but a side that relied heavily on their defensive abilities.
Yet Katema, who has failed to surpass the 14 goal-mark left by Clive Augusto when he moved to Maritzburg, is the one who caught the selection panel’s eyes.
Maybe, he was rewarded for his short and fruitful stint at Mushowani Stars, where he scored seven of his 12 goals before moving to DeMbare.
But local strikers should be ashamed, or they should feel challenged for failing to break the 20-goal mark which has stood for almost a decade since Norman Maroto’s feat with Gunners in 2010.
Some pundits have argued that right back Jalai and keeper Simba Chinani should have been considered.
Former Zimbabwe international Kapenya thinks that just like attacking, defending is an art and, therefore, those in the rearguard should be given due credit.
“Defending is a skill, just like attacking. There is need to give credit where it is due,” said Kapenya.
“Back in the 1960s, defenders were only used in safeguarding their own goal. As soccer developed, a lot of things changed. We now see the development of attacks that start from the back.
“This means defenders can now assist in attack, hence there is need for them to be equally skilful like the rest of the team.
“I feel that the defenders are not getting adequate recognition from the football fraternity,” he said.
Kapenya was part of the Highlanders teams that won the league title in 1998/1999, 2000, 2001, 2002 and 2006.
Football fans are questioning whether players have to be consistent throughout the season, or they can just sparkle at the right time, especially towards the selection date, for them to be considered for the ultimate award?
There is a feeling that players who shine in the first half of the season, giving their teams a solid foundation in the marathon, end up being ignored when others blossom between September and November.
Is it then about impact or consistency?
King Nadolo joined TelOne mid-season and found the debutants deep in relegation zone. His 10 goals have since lifted the Wi-Fi Boys out of the bottom four.
On the other hand, Prince Dube only blossomed in September, coincidentally following the arrival of Dutch coach Pieter De Jongh. Considering that, did the Highlanders striker deserve to be on that calendar?
Dynamos legend Moses “Bambo” Chunga, who won the 1986 award, has called for a revision of the selection criteria.
“It comes down to the criteria used for selection. Some of these journalists cover games once every fortnight.
“Sometimes you wonder if it is about their favourite players or players who are excelling,” said Chunga.
“Some of the strikers on the calendar do not have double figures, yet there is only one defender. There is need for a consistent system.”
Alois Bunjira, a 1996 Soccer Star of the Year finalist, feels that some of the panellists, who include journalists, coaches and club captains, do not vote objectively.
“Unfortunately, there is always bound to be some who do not vote objectively,” Bunjira said.
“However, generally I think the selection was fair. All the players selected deserve to be there. Unfortunately, there can only be 11 players on the calendar. But, I think Peter Muduhwa and Emmanuel Jalai must be feeling hard done,” he added.
Three-time Soccer Star of the Year second runner-up Justice Majabvi thinks that selectors should look at the players’ contribution to the team’s ultimate goals. However, he feels this year’s selection was relatively fair.
“I think those that were selected deserve it,” said Majabvi, who was third best in 2005 and 2007 with Lancashire Steel and in 2008 when he turned out for Dynamos.
“Those that have not made it should feel motivated to up their game so that they are selected next time.
“It should not be about the position one plays, it is about your contribution to the team. Every player is presented with the same opportunity. I do not see any problem with the best eleven having one defender.”