Johannesburg - There are lots of surprises in football, especially when it comes to award nominees. And, it seems this season, there is also no fair play at the Absa Premiership awards.
The league has relaxed some of the requirements for award nominations, meaning a player does not have to play a certain percentage of matches to be eligible for an accolade.
The list of nominees did not come without surprises, and some nominees caused raised eyebrows.
But the most disappointing aspect is the tweaking of criteria for various categories.
A closer look at the new criteria suggests they have been adjusted to accommodate certain players.
For instance, it is no longer a requirement for a goalkeeper or a player to have played at least 70% (21 out of 30) of the club’s matches. The new rules are silent on a replacement criterion for these categories, possibly leaving room for abuse.
Had the previous criteria of 70% still been applicable, Mamelodi Sundowns goalkeeper Denis Onyango would not have made it. The shot-stopper played only 18 matches and missed 12 because of injuries. This means he was only involved in 60% of the club’s league matches, compared to others such as Patrick Tignyemb of Bloemfontein Celtic and Mbongeni Mzimela of Platinum Stars, who played more than 70% of their clubs’ games.
Perhaps they are paying for their clubs’ poor run in the league. The big question is: Do players only qualify for winning medals?
Polokwane City’s George Chigova is the only goalkeeper to have played all his club’s league matches and should have at least got a mention. He was the reason City finished sixth on the table – their maiden top-eight finish – but he was overlooked for someone who has played fewer matches than he has.
And how did Shu-Aib Walters get the nod ahead of Mzimela? They both played the same number of matches, but Mzimela has a better record than the Cape Town City veteran goalkeeper. The Stars goalkeeper kept more clean sheets (11) than Walters (eight) and even conceded fewer goals (22) than the former let in (29).
Even Kaizer Chiefs’ number one Itumeleng Khune should have been considered with his record of 21 matches, nine clean sheets and 15 goals conceded.
Another contentious one is the young player of the season award, which has also left many supporters asking questions.
While there are no issues with Golden Arrows’ Nduduzo Sibiya’s nomination, despite his club finishing in the eighth spot, the shortlisting of Bidvest Wits’ speedy winger Phakamani Mahlambi and Motjeka Madisha of Mamelodi Sundowns is not without controversy.
The two have played 13 and 12 games, respectively, whereas last season’s winner – SuperSport United’s Aubrey Modiba – was overlooked despite featuring 24 times for Matsatsantsa A Pitori. Or does the fact that he won last season rule him out?
Mahlambi was sidelined for most of the first half of the season and only came back in December. He played a crucial role in helping Bidvest Wits summit the log and eventually lift the Absa Premiership championship. After helping Mamelodi Sundowns’ junior team lift the MultiChoice Diski Challenge trophy, Madisha was rewarded with first-team action and played 12 times for the league’s runners-up.
But the duo meet the category’s new judging requirements of having played 40% of the matches.
Instead of lowering the standards, the league should set the bar higher – even if no one meets the requirements – rather than going down to their level.
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