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Are these the best 11 soccer players in the country?

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AS has become tradition, Castle Lager Premier Soccer League reigning champions Ngezi Platinum Stars dominated the Soccer Star of the Year finalists chosen last week.

A panel of experts drawn from journalists, coaches and team captains selected the champions trio of defender Qadr Amini, striker Takunda Benhura and goalkeeper Nelson Chadya among the 11 contenders for the main prize announced at the weekend.

Journeyman Amini had a particularly stellar season, dispensing his 15 years of premiership football experience to stabilise and stimulate his largely inexperienced outfit to their first-ever title and was ranked an early favourite for the top gong even as the season was still in its infancy.

Benhura’s selection was almost automatic him being the Golden Boot award winner despite a paltry 13 goals, the tie-lowest tally for any top scorer in the league since independence.

On the other hand Chadyas safe-keeping of the goalposts ensured he caught the selectors eye after a season in which he was also called up to the national team squad. However as expected, fans are not happy with some selections grumbling over some glaring omissions.

The other eight finalists were named as Tino Benza (Herentals), Donald Mudadi and Tanaka Shandirwa (both Dynamos), Michael Charamba (Chicken Inn), Ariel Sibanda and Andrew Mbeba (both Highlanders), Fortune Binzi (Manica Diamonds) and Obriel Chirinda (Bulawayo Chiefs).

Shandirwa and Mudadi were undoubtedly full value for their selection but the limited number of finalists meant there was no accommodation for DeMbare’s other top performers, midfield architect Junior Makunike and defensive rock Frank Makarati.

Tongues have also wagged over how steely Highlanders defender Peter Muduhwa missed out in spite of the disciplinary issues hanging over his head.

Also raising eyebrows was the total absence of any player from local giants Caps United and FC Platinum. It was especially a shock for FC Platinum power forward Walter Musona, the reigning Soccer Star of the Year, to be ignored after he carried his form from last season, netting seven goals in the league and further displaying his worth with an astounding 40-metre free-kick drive for the Warriors in their 1-1 stalemate against Nigeria in Rwanda last month.

For Caps United, two-time winner of the award Rodwell Chinyengetere also seemed to have done enough to be considered but was forced to accept compensation of the November Player of the
Month award.

Binzi of Manica Diamonds is among the notable stars who came in as surprise candidates given that he only sparkled in the first stages of the season and might not even win his own team's player of the year award, likely headed Liberty Chakoroma’s way.

Analysts have in the past criticised the current format of selecting soccer stars as it involves conflicted pundits like team captains who are also contestants for the award.

The inclusion on the panel of selectors of coaches, who are deemed to have vested interests, is also considered to be undue.

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