I want to congratulate all the players nominated for the annual Premier Soccer League awards coming up this Sunday at the Sandton Convention Centre. I don’t think there are too many people who can complain about the outcome of the nominations, with little to no surprises on which names would make it. I just have a few reservations, not necessarily on the nominees, but more the processes and criteria for certain things.
Without wasting any time, let’s talk about some of the main categories of the PSL awards :
FOOTBALLER OF THE SEASON
Right, let’s start with the big one. I think for obvious reasons, everyone was expecting Kaizer Chiefs to rule this category, having been crowned league champions not so long ago. What is definitely a first here is to have two thirds of it being defenders. The central defensive pairing of Mulomowandau Mathoho and Tefu Mashamaite almost single-handedly delivered the championship to Kaizer Chiefs. I say this because you will notice that there is not a single Chiefs player in the top ten goal scorers in the league this season, meaning they did not win it due to their goal scoring prowess, but rather had solid defensive structures. The other nominee, Cole Alexander of Polokwane City,was very impressive this season and I’m pretty sure if his team had the defensive acumen of the other two nominees, they would have easily won the league because the likes of Alexander made sure their attack is one for the cameras. The one thing I find bizarre about this category is that it is voted for by the 16 coaches in the premiership, but they’re not allowed to vote for their own players. This means even though he thinks his player was the best, he must lie and vote for another player. This is where the accuracy of the award is compromised in my opinion.
PLAYERS’ PLAYER OF THE SEASON
Again Mashamaite and Mathoho are big contenders for this one. These two have been outstanding this season, and even their own peers have at times come out and credited them for much of Chiefs’ success. Masha came up with some crucial goals when he was needed most by his team, leading from both the back and front as their captain. Tower has even cemented his place in the national team, making himself very hard to replace. Point in case was that first Bafana game at this year’s AFCON where he was suspended and we conceded three goals. They will be competing with Teko Modise of Mamelodi Sundowns. Few can argue that Modise has found a new lease on life since moving to Chloorkop from Pirates. Everything in that team revolves around him, both creating and scoring the goals. Their outgoing captain Alje Schut scored many goals with his head, and almost all of them are a result of pin point crosses from the boot of Modise. Again, the awkward thing is that players can’t vote for their teammates. This means all the Chiefs players are now forced to vote for Modise, even though they might think either Mathoho or Mashamaite deserve the accolade. Ridiculous if you ask me.
GOALKEEPER OF THE SEASON
Anssi Jaakkola of Ajax was one of the better keepers this season, but will feel he could have done better than conceding 35 goals. For me he’s in there because because most were worse than him. Patrick Tignyemb of Bloemfontein Celtic also did well and deserves to make the cut, but who can ever forget that public altercation he had with then captain Wandisile Letlabika when they played Sundowns? Well it has nothing to do with the awards, I just think it’s funny. Anyway, the last nominee, and one who’s a strong candidate for the prize is Moeneeb Josephs of Wits. Many times “Slimkat” came through for the Clever Boys, including their recent game agaist Mpumalanga Black Aces. Had he not brought his ‘A’ game that day, the scoreline would not have read 2-2. Brilliant Khuzwayo would have been in there had he not been dropped in February. He really did a good job in the Chiefs goal since Khune’s injury, which was virtually at the beginning of the season.
DEFENDER OF THE SEASON
This is a new category that was created to recognise the defensive works in the teams, since the attacking players always seem to get all the attention. This is very good because I’ve always been an advocate of good defensive plays. Not that I don’t like attacking football, but I feel people must understand that football is played from back to front. No prize for guessing who made it here. “Masha” and “Tower” are again the main attractions, and deservedly so. The guy that might be a bit underrated here is Wits’ Thulani Hlatshwayo. Tyson is that sort of defender that you want in your team any day. He’s big and strong, and has a good head on those shoulders. This is why he’s their captain and in my opinion should partner Mathoho at Bafana.
MIDFIELDER OF THE SEASON
We’ve already touched on Cole Alexander’s attacking abilities earlier on, and also the influence of Teko Modise in the Mamelodi Sundowns team. They will be fighting for this award with Chiefs midfield kingpin Willard Katsande. The problem I have with this category is that it’s not really fair. There are many types of midfielders in a team. How do you judge an anchor (defensive midfielder) against a playmaker (attack and flair) and a winger (speed and flair)? It’s chalk and cheese. They don’t play the same, therefore should not be judged the same. Anyway that’s not for me to decide. Katsande stands a very good chance. Maybe I’m just saying this because of my love affair with midfield enforcers, or maybe it’s because they are they are the league champions. We must also not forget that Katsande is Chiefs’ reigning player of the season, so it’s not far-fetched to think he will scoop this one.
YOUNG PLAYER OF THE SEASON
Well these are lads that are starting their careers so for that reason a lot of people might not know a lot about them. Phumlani Ntshangase is one of the future stars of SA football. The Wits youngster has enjoyed a good spell this season. Gavin Hunt’s faith in him meant a good chunk of game time and he repayed the coach well. He’s also a bit of a dead ball specialist, a good quality to have in your repertoire. Abbubaker Mobara of Ajax also made the list. He did well enough this season to catch the eye of the national selectors at some point, so I guess he can be counted in. I do suspect though that he will be outshined by his teammate Rivaldo Coetzee. This young man surprised many with his cool head that defies his age. Rivaldo was just 17 when Shakes Mashaba gave him his Bafana debut, breaking Aaron Mokoena’s record that was over a decade old. He was never fazed. He played like he’d been doing this for years. These are just some of the reasons that make this category one of the most obvious ones.
COACH OF THE SEASON
Right, the masters. These are the guys that are normally credited with the team’s performance only when they lose. These three though are top of the pile when it comes to plotting the demise of others. Well at least two of these three. There is no doubt that Stuart Baxter has been one of the most strategic coaches this league has ever seen. He is almost unplayable at times. Proof positive is that only three coaches had his number this season. The rest, he just was just too good for. He will almost certainly take this one. Pitso Mosimane will not be too far behind. Although Chiefs finished a record 12 points ahead of Sundowns on the log, it’s not a true reflection of Pitso’s coaching capabilities. The man deserves loads of credit for the way he’s made this team play in his time there. We make a lot of jokes about what he says in the media, but the truth is, he’s just passionate about the game. Something we can do with more of. Don’t forget also that he still has a chance to win a trophy this season when they take on Ajax in the Nedbank Cup final this weekend. Now the one that I just can’t understand is the nomination of Kosta Papic. This is nothing personal, and I think I’ve made it public before that I appreciate his attacking brand of football. But that just isn’t complete football. If you’re a coach that doesn’t pay attention to defensive patterns, you just don’t impress me. I don’t know how a coach whose team conceded 60 goals can make it here. That’s more than four times what Chiefs conceded. Not even the relegated AmaZulu leaked that ridiculous amount of goals. So I don’t know what criteria the panel used to decide the Serb deserves the nod here.
GOAL OF THE SEASON
There were many great goals this season, and it’s a pity this award is only for goals in the league. Kingston Nkhatha scored a wonder goal for Chiefs in their very first game of the season, in the MTN8 when the ball struck the underside of the crossbar and went in. In the same competition, Lehlohonolo Majoro scored the best goal I’ve seen in South Africa with a volley against Wits. In terms of quality, that is the best goal for me. But since we are restricted to the Absa goals, I think it will be very tight between David Zulu’s solo run at Chippa and Menzi Masuku’s screamer not too long ago at Orlando Stadium.
Those are some of the main categories for the awards, and the ones that are likely to have a lot of people talking. Like I said, I don’t have a lot of complaints about those that were nominated, and I want to take this opportunity to wish all of them the best of luck on Sunday. Oh and since we’re in the mood to add categories, perhaps next season we might just have journalist of the season. Just saying.