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Soccer Star of the year award:

The many nearly men


George Shaya dominated the award winning in 1969, 1972, 1975, 1976 and 1977

24/10/2016 00:00:00
by Lot Chitakasha
 
Vitalis Takawira
 
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THE soccer star of the year award is the ultimate individual prize for players in the Zimbabwe football fraternity. Since its inception in 1969, the award has been won by many great players including a record five times by the great man himself, George ‘Mastermind’ Shaya. It is however, fair to point out that there were some equally good players who missed the award and it is to these perennial bridesmaids that I dedicate this article.

Just to situate this argument in its proper context, here are the winners of the award over the years. George Shaya, 1969, 1972, 1975, 1976, 1977, Tendai Chieza 1970, Peter ‘Thunderboots’ Nyama 1971, Ernest Kamba 1973, Moses ‘Madala’ Moyo 1974, George ‘TNT’ Rollo 1978 and Shacky ‘Mr Goals’ Tauro 1979 completing the list of pre-independence winners.

The post-independence era produced David ‘Yogi’ Mandigora, 1980, Stanley ‘Sinyo’ Ndunduma, Japhet ‘Short Cat’ Mparutsa, Ephert Lungu, James Takavada, Stanley Ndunduma, Moses ‘Razorman’ Chunga, Mercedes ‘Rambo’ Sibanda, Ephraim Chawanda, Masimba Dinyero, Peter Ndlovu, Peter Ndovu and George Nechironga as joint winners, Wifred Mugeyi, Agent Sawu, Memory Mucherahova, Tauya ‘Doctor’ Mrewa, Stuart Murisa, Walter Chuma, Zenzo Moyo, Maxwell Dube, Daisy Kapenya, Energy Murambadoro, Cephas Chimedza, Joseph Kamwendo, Clemence Mutawu, Murape Murape, Evans Chikwaikwai, Zhuwawo, Charles Sibanda, Washington Arubi, Devon Mukamba, Dennis Dauda and Danny Phiri in that order. The only year when there was no award was in 1998.

As the statistics above clearly indicate, George Shaya dominated the award from 1969 to 1977. With this in mind one has to feel for the other great players who plied their trade during this era, and there was no shortage of them. Players like Chita Antonio, Gibson Homela, Shadreck Ngwenya, Ebson Muguyo, Lawrence Phiri to mention a few, but there is one player who has come to my attention recently.  I think he should have wrestled this award from the great man.

Complete midfielder

William Sibanda of Zimbabwe Saints is that man. My research has revealed that he was the complete midfielder, the typical box to box player, a ball winner and a great passer of the ball. Many have compared him to the former colossal midfield general and Arsenal captain, Patrick Viera or should it be the other way round.



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Anyway the qualities that the comparison seeks to draw out are easy to discern for the modern fan. Sibanda was any coach’s dream midfield player, one who could dominate the middle of the park. With these highly appreciated qualities, it is easy to argue that the man should have won the award during this era, putting Shaya’s dominance on hold for a year or two.

The post-independence era has produced many quality players. I watched most of the players during this period and I trust my judgement in arguing that there were many players who deserved this award but for some reasons never won it.

I have always wondered how Joel ‘Jubilee’ Shambo who spent over fifteen years illuminating the various stadiums in Zimbabwe with his exquisite skills would fail to clinch the award at least once. It beggars belief that such an accomplished player, regarded by many as one of the best midfielders of his generation would miss out on this prestigious award. Pundits and fans alike might point to the quality of players during this era which made the competition stiff.


Missed out, somehow ... Gibson Homela

However, I think the year 1989 should have been Shambo’s year but again he was disappointed. By then, Shambo was a veteran and he had a really great season. Many fans expected him to win it but they had not reckoned with the power of the selectors to surprise. They pulled the proverbial rabbit from the hat and crowned Masimba Dinyero instead. To say I was also shocked is an understatement and I say this without any disrespect to Masimba. For Shambo, it was a big disappointment, this could have been the icing on the cake for this midfield maestro.

One can also make the same argument about Stanford ‘Stix’ Mtizwa. The man was a midfield genius who could change the complexion of a match with one killer pass. His mastery of the chest control was a marvel to watch.

Mtizwa’s illustrious career

We have the Cruyff turn popularised by the legendary Dutch football master Johan Cruyff. In Zimbabwe football discourse, one can argue for the Mtizwa control, aka the chest control. He made it his trademark. Like Shambo he had an illustrious career spanning fifteen years serving Caps United, Black Rhinos and the National team with excellence. How such a football magician could fail to clinch the award baffles the mind.

The case of Joseph Zulu, the Rio Tinto and Zimbabwe national team winger cum midfielder is a unique one in Zimbabwe history. He was a soccer star of the year finalist for seven consecutive years, eleven in total but the ultimate prize eluded him.

Zulu made an immense contribution to make Rio Tinto a force to reckon with for over eighteen years and this contribution also extended to the national team which he served with distinction.

He was so good that he was offered a trial period with Manchester United in 1979. His employers however, dragged their feet and the opportunity passed. Who knows where this could have taken him. I dare to assert that for a man of such qualities to have failed to clinch the award is a glaring omission which only the selectors can explain.

The 1980’s had no shortage of top marksmen. Shackman ‘Mr Goals’ Tauro was the leader of the pack, Moses ‘Razorman’ Chunga, Maronga ‘The Bomber’ Nyangela, Jerry ‘Dzunguman’ Chidawa, Jimmy ‘Livewire’ Mbewe, Charles ‘Chola’ Chirwa, Gift ‘Ghetto’ Mpariwa, Nhamo Shambira, Tobias Mudyambanje to mention a few joined him on this long list of elite strikers. But with all due respect to the above, there is one baby faced assassin who I feel should have won this award. His name is Wonder Chaka.

Baby faced assassin

Wonder Chaka of Gweru United was a goal machine and at one stage he out gunned Shacky Tauro in the battle of goal kings. This was in 1981 and was no mean feat. For three seasons he would reach the twenty-five goal mark. I am sure that I am not the only one who believes that the man deserved the award at one point or another.

Defenders do not easily come to the attention of selectors in any award giving process. This perhaps explains why only five defenders have won it so far, Ephert Lungu, James Takawada, Ephraim Chawanda, Mercedes Sibanda and Dennis Dauda being this elite.

I however, think that the list could have been longer had Sunday Marimo been recognised for his immense talent. I just think that Sunday was the rock of the Dynamos defence in the 1980’s and deserved to clinch the award had it not been for the unbelievable talent during this era.

The same argument can be proffered with regards to goalkeepers. They are often taken for granted by both selectors and fans alike yet they are the first building block for any strong team. Zimbabwe has been blessed with great goalkeepers and continue to produce them. The case of Tatenda Mukuruva and Donavan Bernard currently strengthens this point.

I have read about Rob Jordan, Musa Muzanenhamo, Posani Sibanda, Frank Mkanga and I watched Japhet ‘Short Cat’ Mparutsa, Brenna Msiska, John Sibanda, Raphael Phiri, Karim Abdul, Gift Muzadzi, Muzo Mugadza, Peter Fanuel but one goalkeeper who deserved this award as much as anyone else was Peter Nkomo.

Captain Oxo as his adoring fans called him gave Highlanders an air of invincibility as he commanded his area with the confidence and authority of a general. The many victories that Highlanders achieved were built on the back of this great goalkeeper and what a shame that he never won this award.

Congestion of talent


Lost out to his friend ... Alois Bunjira

 

Many midfielders excelled for their clubs and country and may have won this award. I have in mind here players like Willard Khumalo, Benjamin Nkonjera, Ronald Sibanda and Joe Mugabe. It is unfortunate that only one player can clinch it but these were players who deserved the award. The congestion of talent however made it difficult for these stars to win it.

Alois Bunjira had a great season with Caps United in 1996, helping the team win the league. He was a renowned goal poacher but he however, missed the ultimate award. The reason for this is easy to discern; the form of his best friend and team mate Stuart Murisa. It was a toss between the two and the selectors went with Murisa.

I also think that Vitalis ‘Digital’ Takawira, the dribbling wizard also deserved to win this award. He gave his all for Dynamos and The Warriors culminating in his hat trick against Cameroun in that 4-1 demolition of the Indomitable Lions. What a player he was.

I have to point out that there were others who would have won it had they continued to ply their trade in Zimbabwe. Players like Benjani Maruwaru, Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat were bound to win it at one point.

Others would have won it more than once like Moses Chunga and Peter Ndlovu while still others missed the boat through sheer lack of discipline and dedication despite their immense talent. A player like Archford Chimutanda would have dominated the awards but lacked the commitment to turn his unquestionable talent into the career it deserved.

The prestigious award remains intact but the winners have become debatable. It still remains the yardstick with which we measure our footballers but if the truth be told, there are many great footballers who failed to clinch it. I can understand some misses but some omissions are simply unfathomable.


 
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