Ariel in  fourth  heaven Ariel Sibanda

Nkosilathi Sibanda and Innocent Kurira

HIGHLANDERS captain Ariel Sibanda can be rest assured he has contributed all he could and would want to be counted as one of the best goalkeepers the country has ever produced.

He caps the season a happy man, having been selected as part of the finest players in this year’s Castle Lager Premiership campaign.

Sibanda recorded 19 clean sheets this season.

His makes the fourth appearance on the Soccer Stars calendar, having made the list in 2012,2018 and 2019. In all those appearances he collected the golden glove award. He has written a piece of history that a few footballers locally have achieved. It will take a feat so much higher for any budding footballer to follow in the coming years.

The goalkeeper, known and respected for possessing an ability to guard the ‘sticks’ and keep goal bound balls at bay, endured a season that started on a joyful ride, where his team was a side that wasn’t easy to score against.

In the same season, the shot stopper went through a frustrating period when Highlanders went on a fall, losing grip after a 19 game run that saw the team unbeaten and touted as likely to be crowned champions.

Obviously, that was not to be as Highlanders finished on fifth position.

In that melee for the championship that eventually slipped away, Sibanda got the acknowledgement he needed. In fact, being named amongst the best for the fourth time is enough of a gift to the 34-year-old. By virtue of being in the best 11, Sibanda is in the running to be crowned the Soccer Star of the year. If he makes it he will become the fourth goalkeeper to win the top accolade.

In 1981 it was Dynamos goalkeeper Japhet M’parutsa who was the first to win it.

Former CAPS United goalkeeper Energy Murambadoro followed suit in 2003 even without his team winning the league title.

Nine years later, Washington Arubi, who kept the goals for Dynamos won the award.

When he makes the decision to pull out the gloves, Sibanda will reflect on a career well played. His inclusion to the 2023 Soccer Stars of the Year is a mark of legend.

Equally so, he delights in the selection and is humble to dedicate that to his team mates and coaches.

His trump card was the 19 clean sheets he recorded.

“It is an honor to once again be amongst the best. The clean sheets you talk of are a result of the hard work that we put in as a team. Those I play with, my team mates and others who were at Highlanders before, contributed a lot to me being the player that I am. It will truly be an honor to win the golden glove four times,” said Sibanda, fondly known as Dawu to the legion of Bosso fans.

And, his naming to the calendar will surely silence the doubtful lot who thought he was done.

His team mates, Andrew Mbeba was also selected. The defender makes a return to the ‘red carpet’ of football stars, with his first appearance being the Most Promising Player of the 2019 season.

Again that year, he walked up the podium alongside his captain.

Another player who undoubtedly had to be called amongst the best was Chicken Inn’s Michael Charamba.

He scored 10 goals for the Gamecocks.

Charamba was deployed as a right wingback in the Gamecocks set-up this season and most of his goals were curled and volleyed efforts from outside the box. The goals, if reviewed, contend for the goal of the season award.

He told Zimpapers Sports Hub that he little expected he will be selected.

“I am happy to be amongst the best players in the country. What makes this even special is I played in an unfamiliar position this entire season. I did not expect to excel to this level but l would like to thank my teammates and technical team for having faith in me and believing that l could deliver,” said Charamba.
Champions Ngezi Platinum have the majority of players on the list of the bet 11 players.

They contributed three players in captain Qadr Amini, goalkeeper Nelson Chadya and Takunda Benhura.
Giants Dynamos and Highlanders provided two players each.

Donald Mudadi who had a very good season and his midfield partner Tanaka Shandirwa represent the Glamour Boys.

The Soccer Star of the Year, his two runners-up, coach, goalkeeper and rookie of the year will be announced at a banquet set for this Friday in Harare.

A panel of experts, selected media personnel, 18 coaches and captains of Premier Soccer League clubs met virtually yesterday to decide the best 11 players this season, coach of the year, goalkeeper and rookie of the year.

The 2023 Soccer Stars of the Year:
Ariel Sibanda (Highlanders) GK, Tinotenda Benza ( Herentals), Donald Mudadi (Dynamos), Tanaka Shandirwa ( Dynamos), Takunda Benhura (Ngezi Platinum), Nelson Chadya (Ngezi Platinum) GK, Qadir Amin (Ngezi Platinum), Andrew Mbeba (Highlanders), Michael Charamba (Chicken Inn), Fortune Binzi ( Manica Diamonds) and Obriel Chirinda (Bulawayo Chiefs)

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