Johannesburg - Will it be a Mamelodi Sundowns show or will this season’s Premier Soccer League awards be Maritzburg United’s contest? Most importantly, will it be third time lucky for Hlompho Kekana?
One thing is for sure: this season’s awards will be a contest between Downs and United – the Brazilians have been nominated in five categories out of the Team of Choice’s nine in all competitions.
This is not surprising following their exploits this season.
It is not just the battle of coaches, but also of the midfielders and the main category of footballer of the season.
Pitso Mosimane and Fadlu Davids will be a sideshow of the event; the real fight will be between Percy Tau, Siphesihle Ndlovu and Kekana.
Mosimane and Davids have to contend with Orlando Pirates’ Milutin Sredojevic for the coach of the season award.
There is also Denis Onyango up against Richard Ofori in another Sundowns vs Maritzburg battle.
The pair face stiff competition from Kaizer Chiefs’ number one Itumeleng Khune, who is, not surprisingly, the only nominee from Amakhosi. The trio will contest the goalkeeper of the season award.
Tau and Ndlovu will also fight Orlando Pirates midfielder Musa Nyatama in the players’ player category.
It does not end there as Kekana, Ndlovu and Nyatama are again come up against one another in the midfielder of the season award category.
Ndlovu appears in two more categories – young player of the season and Nedbank Cup’s most promising player of the tournament.
But the big question is, will it be third time’s the charm for Kekana?
This is the question on many football supporters’ minds ahead of the much-anticipated awards since the Sundowns skipper twice lost the gong.
He was first pipped by team-mate Khama Billiat two seasons ago. Last year, he lost the footballer of the season award to Cape Town City captain Lebohang Manyama.
This time, Kekana is up against Tau and Ndlovu.
Many are tipping Tau to take this one home considering the season he has had.
He is already guaranteed another award after finishing as joint top scorer with Polokwane City’s Rodney Ramagalela.
But it is not a foregone conclusion that the 24-year-old will walk away with the main award. Kekana and Ndlovu had a good season, and the judges will have a tough job picking their man.
A former winner in this category, Teko Modise, this week said that Kekana had been consistent throughout the season and had led Sundowns with aplomb. He also chipped in with a few goals to inspire the side to the league championship.
However, others feel that, had it not been for Tau’s contribution and hard work, the Brazilians would not have captured the league title.
They are not far off the mark as the statistics prove that Tau was the main man behind Sundowns’ success. He has come of age and has been the difference in the Downs team this season.
United have Ndlovu to thank for not only making the top four, but also reaching the final of the Nedbank Cup.
The 21-year-old has been a marvel to watch and has already made his mark in local football, and deserves to walk away with at least one award.
It would be a shame if Kekana did not get the recognition he deserves. However, this is the nature of the awards – you win some and you lose some.
Two more United players – Bevan Fransman and Siyanda Xulu – have also been recognised for their outstanding partnership in the Maritzburg side as they are up for an award in the defender of the season category.
They will go up against Orlando Pirates’ left back Innocent Maela, who also raised his hand in his first season with the Buccaneers. It’s another tough one to predict.