Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
LOCAL soccer experts will tomorrow gather in Harare to select the finest 11 players who illuminated the scene in the just-ended 2018 Castle Lager Premiership season.
The marathon concluded last Saturday.
FC Platinum retained the Premiership title following an impressive run that saw them clinching the crown with two games to spare.
Nichrut, Bulawayo City, Mutare City and Shabanie all fell by the wayside.
And attention now turns to the soccer stars’ selection, with the voters choosing those whom they think gave a good account of themselves in the 2018 term.
Selected sport journalists, top-flight club captains and coaches will gather in the capital to select the 11 best players, coach, referee and rookie of the year.
They will also vote for the overall winner and his runners-up, who will be announced during a banquet to be held early next month.
While over the years, a panel of selectors have found it difficult coming up with the stars, it’s most likely going to be easy for them this year as few players shone in a season of largely average performances.
Champions FC Platinum are likely to dominate the calendar, with reigning Soccer Star of the Year Rodwell Chinyengetere favourite to retain the title.
The former Hwange midfielder has already won the Golden Boot, having netted 17 times for the champions. He has also weighed in with nine assists for Pure Platinum Play.
Centreback Kelvin Moyo and Edwin Madhanhanga are also likely to make it into the final 11.
Chicken Inn might have failed to mount a serious challenge for the Premiership title, but the pair of Innocent Muchaneka and Obrey Chirinda made a good case for consideration on the cast, so is Highlanders’ Gabriel Nyoni and goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda.
Harare teams failed to come to the party in this year’s championship race, easily surrendering the title fight to FC Platinum, but Harare City’s Tatenda Tumba, Herentals’ Wilmore Chimbetu and Richard Hachiro, Donald Mudadi of Black Rhinos as well as Joel Ngodzo of CAPS United had a decent season.
Triangle’s talismanic winger Phineas Bhamisi and his strike partner Nhamo Lameck also stand a good chance of making it to the calendar, having helped their team to a top four finish and the Chibuku Super Cup triumph.
Ngezi Platinum Stars’ Godknows Murwira, Frank Makarati and Michael Charamba also had a good season, together with David Temwanjera of ZPC Kariba.
Reigning Coach of the Year Norman Mapeza is the odds-on favourite to defend the accolade, having guarded his FC Platinum to the podium for the second year running. He, however, faces stiff competition from Harare City’s Mark Harrison as well as Herentals gaffer Kumbirai Mutiwekuziva as well as Taurai Mangwiro of Triangle. Herentals’ 17-year-old striker Tinotenda Benza, who scored three goals and provided seven assists for the league debutants, is most likely to bag the Rookie of the Year award.
Tinotenda Chiunye of CAPS United and Triangle’s Delic Murimba could have presented a formidable challenge for the lanky Benza had they played more games for their respective teams, but they spent the better part of the season either warming the bench or sitting in the terraces.
Chinyengetere is the holder of the prestigious Soccer Star of the Year gong and could join an exclusive club of George Shaya and Peter Ndlovu if he manages to win it for a successive time.
Indiscipline has rendered five players ineligible for selection.
The Dynamos quartet of Peace Makaha, Obey Mwerahari, Marshal Machazane and Kingstone Nkhata are all out of contention after they were suspended by their club for mutinous behaviour. Ngezi Platinum Stars captain Liberty Chakoroma is also not eligible after he was sanctioned by the PSL for assaulting a match official in his team’s Chibuku Super Cup first round tie against Herentals.