Eddie Chikamhi, Harare Bureau
The Castle Lager Premier Soccer League Soccer Star of the Year awards ceremony will mark its Golden Jubilee this Friday when the domestic football family gather in Harare to crown the newest king of local football.
The event has come a long way since its inception in 1969 with 42 different players having walked the podium to date as the winners.
The 2019 awards mark the 50th anniversary and the organisers, Delta Beverages and the Premier Soccer League, have a big task on their hands to deliver an event befitting the milestone.
Legend George “Mastermind” Shaya was the first person to be crowned in the 1969 season and the former Dynamos midfielder went to claim the accolade a record five times before Independence.
Apart from Shaya, there are only three other players that also won the coveted award more than once. the late Stanley “Sinyo” Ndunduma managed the feat in 1981 with Caps United and then with the trailblazing Black Rhinos side four years later.
Former Warriors skipper Peter Ndlovu, who was then playing for his boyhood club Highlanders in the early 90s, won it first in 1990 as a mere 17-year-old.
He was joint winner with Caps United’s George Nechironga in 1990 in what remains the only time in history that the award has been shared between two players.
Ndlovu was to return in 1991 to claim the accolade before leaving the country the following season for a landmark career in the English Premiership.
FC Platinum’s Rodwell Chinyengetere also dominated the previous two seasons but failed to make the shortlist this year after returning from an unsuccessful jaunt in South Africa where he had signed for Baroka.
The Zimbabwean football scene has been replete with exceptional foreign talents in the past but Malawian midfielder Joseph Kamwendo remains the only expatriate to have won the award, having done so in 2005 while playing for Caps United.
Some of the living big names that have also won the award in the yesteryear include Tendai Chieza, Japhet “Shortcat” Mparutsa, Moses “Bambo” Chunga, George Rollo, Enerst Kamba, David “Yogi” Mandigora, Ephert Lungu, George Nechironga, James Takavada and Masimba Dinyero.
Then there was the 1990s generation of Ephraim Chawanda, Agent Sawu, Wilfred Mugeyi, Memory Mucherahowa, Stewart Murisa, Tauya Murehwa and Walter Chuma.
In the 2000s came Zenzo Moyo, Maxwell Dube, Dazzy Kapenya, Energy Murambadoro, Cephas Chimedza, Clemence Matawu, Murape Murape, Evans Chikwaikwai and Ramson Zhuwawo.
Charles Sibanda, Washington Arubi, Denver Mukamba, Tawanda Mparati, Denis Dauda, Danny Phiri and Hardlife Zvirekwi also won in the current decade.
Most of the former Soccer Star of the Year award winners are spread across the breadth and width of the globe.
But some of the previous Soccer Star of the Year award winners are now late and it is always befitting to observe a moment of silence for the likes of the late Peter Nyama, Moses Moyo, Stanley Ndunduma, Mercedes Sibanda and Shacky Tauro.
There are also great players who could have won it at least once if they had gotten the opportunity to spend time playing in Zimbabwe; the likes of Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiat and Nyasha Munetsi. It is unfortunate, most of the best talents are quickly snapped up by foreign teams, especially the South African Supa Diski.
The awards have been littered with highs and lows along the way with the major dent being the 1998-99 season when the event was abandoned because of selection controversies.
Most of the times, the selection has always left the football-mad Zimbabweans with divided opinions. The selection panel in the past has been accused of voting on regional lines and this affected the quality of the event.
Although there has been debate over the years over the standards of the selections and the calibre of players in the domestic league making the calendar, it is worth noting that the event has managed to survive the test of time for the past 50 years.
The 2019 selection was conducted last week and the final eleven were announced following an electronic ballot introduced for the first time this year.
Caps United’s Joel Ngodzo and Highlanders’ in-form striker Prince Dube were the most popular choices and it’s likely that one of them could land the award on Friday.
2019 Soccer Star of the Year finalists
Ariel Sibanda (Highlanders), Ian Nekati (ZPC Kariba), Evans Katema (Dynamos), Phineas Bamusi (Caps United), Prince Dube (Highlanders), Wellington Taderera (Black Rhinos), Clive Augusto (formerly Chicken Inn), Joel Ngodzo (Caps United), King Nadolo (TelOne), Ralph Kawondera (Triangle), Never Tigere (FC Platinum)