Manyama the man to beat

City skip­per has had an ex­cep­tional sea­son, earn­ing a Bafana re­call

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - MAZOLA MOLEFE

ANEW Foot­baller of the Sea­son will be crowned tonight 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 any of Bil­liat, his Mamelodi Sun­downs team­mates Hlom­pho Kekana or Kea­gan Dolly would have been a wor­thy win­ner.

Tonight, striker and Cape Town City cap­tain Le­bo­gang Manyama is the hot favourite to win the cov­eted award.

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, have not been 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 an award tonight for beat­ing other strik­ers to the Golden Boot.

His per­for­mance also helped him re­turn to the na­tional team and he fea­tured as a sec­ond half sub­sti­tute Bafana Bafana’s his­toric 2-0 win over Nigeria last month when South Africa, for the first time in a qual­i­fy­ing match, beat the Su­per Ea­gles.

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.

How ris­ing star and Un­der-20 World Cup par­tic­i­pant Grant Marge­man missed out is still a bit of a mys­tery given he more than met the con­di­tions to earn a nom­i­na­tion. Aubrey Modiba, the win­ner of this award last year, has also been ig­nored, sug­gest­ing that if you have pre­vi­ously been a re­cip­i­ent you sim­ply can’t go back for a sec­ond help­ing.

Modiba played in 24 of Su­perS­port United’s 30 league games, net­ting one goal as he helped them to fifth place fin­ish.

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