16 November 2012

Zimbabwe: Denver Eyes Greatness

DENVER MUKAMBA'S sensational rise into a true Glamour Boy could be sealed this weekend with the midfielder in prime position to be voted Soccer Star of the Year tomorrow and Dynamos odds-on favourites to win the championship on Sunday.

The 20-year-old has been the standout player of the domestic Premiership in a year in which his exemplary handling of the pressure, which comes with being the talisman at De-Mbare, and the challenges he faces on the personal front, have belied his tender age.

The way he handled the sensitive revelations that he has been secretly battling an asthmatic condition to retain his focus on his game, driving Dynamos' relentless bid to retain the championship, has won him many admirers.

Now, only the greatest fraud in the history of domestic football, when it comes to selecting the outstanding players of the year, can deny him his date with destiny when a panel of football writers and commentators meet in Harare tomorrow.

Castle Premier League coaches, Footballers Union of Zimbabwe executive members and referees' representatives will also play a part in the selection of the 2012 Castle Soccer Star of the Year.

They will be assisted by non-voting Sports Editors who will oversee the selection process.

Mukamba failed to garner enough votes last year to make it among the 11 Soccer Star of the Year finalists, but looks odds-on favourite to win the big award this time around after taking his game to another level.

The lanky player was voted Rookie of the Year, which was a surprise, given that he had played in the Premiership, the previous season as an 18-year-old, at Kiglon.

The winners of all other awards will be announced at a banquet on December 7.

Mukamba has been impressive this season and could have been lost to South African side, Bidvest Wits, who made a commitment to sign him before having a change of heart at the last minute during mid-season.

Now, reports indicate that Orlando Pirates, who have lost their bid to lure Zambian playmaker Rainsford Kalaba from Congolese giants TP Mazembe, could try to woo Mukamba during the off-season.

Mukamba could become the 10th Dynamos player to win the Soccer Star of the Year in 43 years, joining an exclusive club that has George Shaya (five-time winner), Moses Chunga, Ernest Kamba, David Mandigora, Japhet Mparutsa, Memory Mucherahowa, Tauya Murewa, Murape Murape and Washington Arubi.

Since the turn of the millennium, a Dynamos player has won the Soccer Star of the Year in the season that the Glamour Boys are crowned champions with Murape winning in 2007 and Arubi winning last year.

Shaya ('76), Mandigora ('80), Mparutsa ('82), Chunga ('86), Mucherahowa ('94) and Murewa ('95) were also crowned Soccer Stars of the Year in the season that the Glamour Boys won the league championship.

The late Stanley Ndunduma ('81) and ('85), Masimba Dinyero ('89) and Peter Ndlovu ('91) are players who won the Soccer Star of the Year award in a season that DeMbare were crowned champions.

The Harare giants defender, Patson Jaure, has also enjoyed a good season but, for the big one, it appears Mukamba has scored more points. DeMbare defensive rock, Guthrie Zhokinyi, is ineligible for the awards after he was slapped with a life ban from football by Zifa for his alleged involvement in the Asiagate match-fixing scandal. New skipper, Tawanda Muparati, has also had a good season.

Dynamos need a point in their last game against Hardbody at Ascot on Sunday to win a record 19th league crown this season.

Highlanders could win the championship, if DeMbare falter, and they have a strong say in the battle for the Soccer Star of the Year with Masimba Mambare in the running for the big one after a good season.

Midfielder Mthulisi Maphosa has also been outstanding for Bosso this season and if one of the two win the big prize, it will be the first time for a Highlanders player to be crowned Soccer Star of the Year in 10 years. Dazzy Kapenya was the last Bosso player to win the award in 2002.

Four Highlanders players have won the award -- Peter Ndlovu (two), Mercedes "Rambo" Sibanda, Zenzo Moyo and Kapenya - have won the Soccer Star of the Year award.

The Most Promising Player of the Season award could fall to Gunners' Leeroy Tapiwa Dephistara, Willard Kalongonda from Harare City or Highlanders' Knox Mtizwa.

Last year, Arubi was the standout goalkeeper and, this season, Highlanders' Ariel Sibanda has been the best and this has been confirmed by his rise into a regular member of the Warriors.

Boso skipper, Innocent Mapuranga, has also been impressive with his leadership qualities and fighting spirit in the heart of the defence.

While there are a number of other players from other teams who have impressed, it's clear that the main race is between Dynamos and Highlanders players for the Soccer Star of the Year. If there is an outsider, then it has to be Monomotapa's rising star, Ronald "Rooney" Chitiyo, who has caught the eye with his consistency all season and sublime skills.

Monoz could also provide a clutch of other players who could feature on the calendar.

In a voting process that is likely to be divided on northern and southern lines, Chitiyo could be the major beneficiary of protest votes and could sneak in and win it.

Some of the basic criteria for selection dictates that a player should have played at least 10 league matches. A player who has earned two or more red cards or more than six yellow cards is deemed ineligible.

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