Robson Sharuko, Harare Bureau
IT’S very likely Rodwell Chinyengetere will, for the second season running, be crowned Soccer Star of the Year in what would be a landmark achievement for a career that was almost lost to the demons of a horrific injury.
In yet another depressingly poor domestic Premiership season, where magicians were few and moments of individual brilliance were rare, the choice for the Soccer Star of the Year became a search for the one-eyed man among the blind.
It’s a measure of the lack of interest in this whole exercise this year, with the usual nationwide debate triggered by this process, extinguished by the damning reality that there wasn’t enough quality to provoke debate.
The usual frenzy subdued by what was a search for football thoroughbreds, eleven of them, which came up with a host of average players because of the apparent lack of choices which those who voted faced at their annual retreat in Harare.
The search for quality that only came up with quantity because, if the brutal truth be told, not many who eventually made the All-Star XI deserved such lavish praise in a season dominated by mediocrity.
It would have been even difficult to have chosen only three really standout players in the domestic Premiership this season and to come up with 11 was a very difficult if not impossible task.
Yes, to some extent, Chinyengetere would have deserved his place among the three while Ariel Sibanda’s clean sheets and penalty saves, as the last line of a Bosso team trapped in a rebuilding phase, would possibly have merited a position there.
But who else?
Farai Madhanhanga, maybe yes, maybe no, Kelvin Moyo, possibly yes, possibly no, and therein lies the challenge of picking 11 when getting just three appears such a difficult task.
In years gone by the revelation of the faces who make up the Soccer Stars of the Year calendar would have been a subject of intense debate months after their names became public knowledge.
For good, or for bad, the debate would rage for what looked like an eternity with some sharply critical of the choices, because some who possibly deserved to be there had been left out, while others provided the endorsement.
Now, just a few days after their names came out last Friday, it’s like nothing happened, no one was chosen and no one was left out of the process.
You can’t fault those who were asked to choose because of the limitations of the quality of the characters they had to pick from in a bid to come up with the All-Star XI.
Neither can anyone fault Chinyengetere if, indeed, as is widely expected he emerges as the best of the lot again and defends the individual crown he took to Zvishavane last year.
But neither can we suppress the debate about how the standards have spectacularly fallen over the years and in our quest to fulfil the mission, players of a questionable pedigree now grace this prestigious calendar.
The Soccer Stars of the Year calendar, where those who were chosen this season, will read 2019 and it’s a milestone year for this prestigious award which, for the better part of its life, represented greatness.
It will be the 50th anniversary of this award, its Golden Jubilee, marking half-a-century since the first winner, the immortal George Shaya, won the inaugural award in 1969.
Only three players — Shaya, who won it five times, including three on the trot, Peter Ndlovu, who probably would have won it a dozen times had his talent not taken him to Europe as a raw teenager, and Stanley Ndunduma — had the honour of winning this award more than once.
Only two players — Shaya and King Peter —had the honour of winning this award back-to-back in recognition of their unquestionable excellence in this game.
Any debate related to the greatest footballers of all-time to emerge in this country will certainly be an endorsement of fraud if it doesn’t feature Shaya, King Peter and Ndunduma.
That they are the only ones who won the Soccer Star of the Year award more than once, and two of them, regarded as the greatest of all-time, King Peter and Shaya, are the only ones to win it back-to-back, says it all.
Now, there is a possibility Chinyengetere could be added to that special group of footballers who were good enough to win this award more than once and back-to-back.
Mentioned alongside the likes of Ndunduma, King Peter and Shaya.
Given it’s an award that Joel Shambo, Madinda Ndlovu, Willard Mashinkila-Khumalo, David Mwanza, Benjamin Nkonjera, Adam Ndlovu, Joe Mugabe, Vitalis Takawira and Sunday Chidzambwa didn’t even win, Chinyengetere’s possible back-to-back crowns will provoke debate about whether it still represents greatness.
No one can blame him, of course, should he win but no one should also suppress the debate this is likely to provoke.