Who will make it to the Premier Soccer League’s best 11?
Story by Lawrence Trusida, Sports reporter
THE 2023 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League season ended this Sunday, with Ngezi Platinum Stars being crowned champions at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo.
Attention now shifts to a selection of the PSL Best 11 for this year.
The Mhondoro-based Platinum miners bagged their maiden Premier Soccer League (PSL) title after a roller-coaster season in which they won the most matches and also scored the most goals.
Young striker Takunda Benhura scored 13 goals, almost a third of the teams’ total, while their defence was the third-best in the country.
However, Ngezi Platinum Stars are the champions with the most losses in the last five seasons having lost eight matches this season.
Last season FC Platinum lost just three matches, the season before that was their highest with 6, while in 2018 they lost just four matches the whole season.
To their credit, the youthful Ngezi Platinum Stars always found ways of bouncing back from setbacks, led by their youthful coach Takesure Chiragwi whose shrewd tactics have brought the championship to Mhondoro Ngezi.
Apart from Benhura’s goals, Madamburo did not have a standout star, with hard work and teamwork propelling the team, while the coach was not afraid to make changes when they were needed.
With the best 11 players in the land set to be voted for by a panel of experts which includes the media, coaches and club captains this Tuesday, the question will be who will join Benhura on the calendar if at all he makes it.
Takunda Benhura’s goals propelled Ngezi to the championship but was he the best player this season?
Dynamos midfield maestro Donald Mudadi was a shining beacon in the middle of the park for the Glamour Boys.
Playing as a deep-lying playmaker, Mudadi drove DeMbare from deep and chipped in with five classy goals and a couple of assists.
His industry and footwork were a marvel to watch and so was Chicken Inn roving wingback Michael Charamba who finished the season with an impressive 10 goals and six assists.
The speedy Charamba was the reason why Chicken Inn finished in the top half of the season and he has a genuine case to be in the top three players for this season.
Other players worth mentioning include Manica Diamonds attacker Brian Chikwenya who had an outstanding season with 12 assists and two goals as he pushed his team to finish second.
Obriel Chirinda’s 12 goals kept a struggling Bulawayo Chiefs afloat and the same can be said of Tinashe Balakasi who had a good second half of the season, scoring 10 goals after being overlooked for much of the first half at Simba Bhora.
It wasn’t all about the attackers this season as Dynamos and Highlanders struggled in front of goal but their defence made sure they were always in the picture for the greater part of the season.
DeMbare had the best defence this season and let in just 16 goals and while the defensive lineup constantly changed due to injuries and suspensions, one constant man is Emmanuel Jalai.
The diminutive right-back played all Dynamos games except one in which he was rested.
Kelvin Moyo and captain Frank Makarati had good seasons but suspensions and injuries meant that they were not consistent enough.
Highlanders’ defence stalwart Peter Muduhwa will also be in the reckoning but the four-game suspension put a dent on his season.
However, his teammate Andrew Mbeba has been outstanding this season as the former under-20 has not been all defensive but he has also chipped in with important goals for a team that had a blunt strike force.
Veteran goalkeeper Ariel Sibanda once again had a good season between the posts conceding just 17 goals and keeping 19 clean sheets for Bosso.
Ngezi Platinum Stars goalkeeper Nelson Chadya with 17 clean sheets is also in the reckoning as he also had to assume a leadership role for the champions.
Bret Amidu, Tino Benza with six goals and 10 assists, Tanaka Shandirwa, Leslie Kashitigu and Kudzai Chigwida are some of the players who also illuminated the 2023 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League.