JOHANNESBURG - A new Footballer of the Season will be crowned on Monday night at the Premier Soccer League awards ceremony, and the general feeling is that the accolade is not a closely contested as this time last season, when Khama Billiat was pronounced the best player.
Then, the public, media and pundits felt either Billiat or his Mamelodi Sundowns teammates Hlompho Kekana or Keagan Dolly would have been a worthy winner.
On Monday night, striker and Cape Town City captain Lebogang Manyama is the hot favourite.
It is not that Thulani Hlatshwayo and Kekana, a nominee for the second consecutive season, also captains at their clubs – league champions Bidvest Wits and Sundowns respectively, were not outstanding during the 2016/17 campaign, but rather that Manyama was perhaps a different class, helping City emerge as surprise title contenders and eventually finish third behind Wits and Sundowns.
Manyama, 26, incredibly featured in all but one league match for the Mother City outfit and scored 13 goals, which automatically guarantees him the Golden Boot.
But this is not to say Hlatshwayo would not have earned the Footballer of the Year tag should he win.
‘Tyson’, a defender and recently appointed Bafana skipper, was arguably the best player in a team that hardly relies on individuals to get the job done, staying injury-free throughout most of the season and managing to play in 24 of the 30 league games and scoring three very important goals.
The same goes for Kekana, whose schedule at Sundowns with their continental commitment means he’s played more football than his fellow nominees over the last year, but still featured in over 80 percent of his club’s league matches, scoring five goals – often stunners.
The release of the nominees for the PSL awards has not been without some controversy though, especially the Young Player of the Season category.
Motjeka Madisha (Sundowns), Phakamani Mahlambi (Wits) and Nduduzo Sibiya (Golden Arrows) are the three who got the nod for the nomination, but it appears the criteria was a bit lax for this category, with the PSL deciding the young players have to have only played in 40 percent of their teams’ league matches.
THE REST OF THE NOMINEES
Players’ Player: Lebogang Manyama, Aubrey Ngoma (both Cape Town City), Percy Tau (Mamelodi Sundowns).
Goalkeeper: Darren Keet (Wits), Denis Onyango (Mamelodi Sundowns), Shu-Aib Walters (Cape Town City)
Defender: Thulani Hlatshwayo, Sifiso Hlanti (both Wits), Ramahlwe Mphahlele (Kaizer Chiefs).
Midfielder: Hlompho Kekana (Mamelodi Sundowns), Thabang Monare (Wits), Aubrey Ngoma (Cape Town City).
Coach: Gavin Hunt (Wits), Pitso Mosimane (Mamelodi Sundowns), Eric Tinkler (Cape Town City).