At its prime the event stood proudly as the most esteemed awards in Zimbabwean sport.
Then, players and fans alike eagerly looked forward to the event every year-end to see whose photos would grace “the calendar”.
Now it has lost its credibility, its spirit, and its popularity.
If one wanted proof, last year’s selection meeting in Kwekwe was good a place to start looking.
The event turned into a huge farce, regionalism being the ugliest of the vices.
Some journalists came with a clear intention to sneak players from certain clubs, regardless of their worth.
The result was an unpopular Soccer Star of the Year Evans Chikwaikwai, now with Bidvest Wits in South Africa. Despite the former Njube Sundowns hitman having been the top goal-scorer in the Zimbabwean top flight, he was not the natural choice among many of the journalists.
Further, the 11 Soccer Stars finalists exposed a deliberate purpose to spread the players among several clubs, which is against the spirit of the awards.
Time and again, the football journalists who have been around stress that the awards are not a place for quotas: if the best players in the country for that particular year were all goalkeepers, or were players from the same club, that should stand.
Perhaps it has to do with the current crop of selectors not knowing what they have to do.
Tomorrow journalists converge in Kwekwe again to choose this year’s Stars.
“We have changed the selection criterion,” said Wellington Nyoni, the chairman of the Sports Writers Association of Zimbabwe (Swaz), which runs the awards.
“Not every Swaz member is voting this time around, unlike in the past. What we have looked at are people who are mature. We have tried to get rid of problematic people. As Swaz we would like to see things being done well.”
Veteran broadcaster Admire Taderera will chair the 15-member voting panel. Other senior sports journalists will act as observers and, according to Nyoni, they can ask the panelists to justify their selections.
“The actual voting for the 11 panelists will not be secret for the sake of accountability. After we’ve agreed that these 11 were the best then I’m confidentthat the secret ballot to decide the Soccer Star and his runner-ups will be smooth.”
Swaz has also invited representatives from the Premier Soccer League, coaches and referees bodies to observe. Last year there was heated debate over the eligibility of some players due to unclear disciplinary records.
The 2009 selection tomorrow comes at time when Dynamos and Gunners are running neck-and-neck in the PSL championship race.
The most outstanding player from Dynamos is the prolific scorer Cuthbert Malajila. The Zimbabwe striker’s overall season performance makes him a firm favourite.
If Gunners win the league, they will owe it largely to the contribution of attacking midfielder Ramson Zhuwawo and striker Norman Maroto. So, these two will also be seriously considered.
But that the winner does not necessarily have to come from the champions means such men as CAPS United scoring sensation Nyasha Mushekwi and Monomotapa’s livewire winger Chris Semakweri could take the big one.
Tafadzwa Dube (Gunners), George Magariro (Dynamos), Norman Maroto (Gunners), Elliot Matsika (Shooting Stars), Cuthbert Malajila (Dynamos), Ephraim Mazarura (Dynamos), Nyasha Mushekwi (CAPS United), Darryl Nyandoro (Monomotapa), Tafadzwa Rusike (CAPS United), Chris Semakweri (Monomotapa), Ramson Zhuwawo (Gunners).