To see Mamelodi Sundowns dominate the list of nominees for the Premier Soccer League awards comes as no surprise – for me the golden rule has always been that a team that wins the title should, at the very least, have a handful of stand-out players when it’s time to dish out individual accolades.
Andile Jali, Peter Shalulile and Themba Zwane predictably cracked the nod and although Royal AM’s Victor Letsoalo also makes an appearance for a memorable season, the reality is that his Downs peers were simply outstanding.
Football commentators and journalists have made their picks by in several categories, the most coveted being that of Player of the Year, but I have my own biased list and here it is in no particular order:
A lot of the discussions around the Sundowns midfielder has been his Bafana Bafana omission by coach Hugo Broos, which only highlights his form during the 2021/22 season.
Jali was immense for the Brazilians, playing in 39 games across all competitions, he could have easily been voted man of the match in quite a few of them – even when the national team ignored him, ‘Mhlekazi’ kept going. He is my Footballer of the Season.
Earlier this year I wrote that Dolly was one of the players to watch in 2022, and although he maybe faded towards the end of the campaign it’s fair to argue he lived up to expectation as the Kaizer Chiefs talisman.
Dolly signed for Amakhosi on a free transfer from French side Montpellier, creating a buzz around how the Glamour Boys would finally attempt to end their ongoing trophy drought following the return of Stuart Baxter.
But with Baxter sacked seven matches before the season concluded, Chiefs now have to reshuffle again. Dolly scored eight goals in 28 games and picked up the DStv Premiership Player of the Month for October and November.
It’s slightly disappointing for Dolly not to have made the list in any of the categories despite what was overall a notable return to the PSL. He would have made my list.
Don’t get confused wondering why a player whose name was probably first on the Orlando Pirates team sheet this season has not appeared as a nominee either.
The CAF competitions aren’t considered in the criteria to determine honours in the domestic league, otherwise I suspect Shandu would have been an obvious pick in most of the categories – his maiden year with the Buccaneers was one for the books.
The utility player can be criticised for not managing to replicate his purple patch in Pirates’ Confederation Cup journey, but he did concede that his rivals in the PSL seem to plan better to make sure he is at times anonymous during the game simply because he’s an open book to them.
Shandu, signed as a right back from Maritzburg United at the start of the season, scored seven goals in a remarkable 40 matches for Pirates and was used in most of the attacking positions by coaches Fadlu Davids and Mandla Ncikazi. I’d very easily consider him for a top award.
Same WhatsApp group as Shadu – his club’s overall domestic form ruled him out of contention, but that is not to say he hasn’t been exceptional.
Mosele has grown in stature at Pirates and benefited from having proper coaches in Davids and Ncikazi. He’d regressed at Baroka FC prior to joining the Buccaneers with concerns that the quality of coaching was substandard. Once in Gauteng, it was clear why Mosele had to move.
While the 22-year-old struggled to settle into his new environment and needed intervention from those close to him and within the club, his consistency is one of the stories of the season.
Mosele also mended things with Bafana coach Broos and was part of the squad that travelled to Europe for friendlies against Guinea and France. Top class talent and should already now be a national team regular.
He was close, but not close enough to at least equal Collins Mbesuma’s long-standing record of 25-goals in a single season at Chiefs more than a decade ago.
The Namibian international, who reached what is still a milestone 23 strikers, stayed injury free and was almost rotation-proof when the Sundowns technical team was shuffling the squad around to manage the load on the players.
He has been selected in most categories and will go toe-to-toe with teammate Jali for the Footballer of the Year award. As if his debut season at Sundowns wasn’t impressive enough, Shalulile has followed up by scoring an incredible 28 goals in 43 matches, showing that the Brazilians are quite heavily reliant on this marksman.