Next weekend the curtain will come down on what has been one of the most thrilling seasons in recent memory for South African football fans. The title race has been edge-of-the-seat action for months on end while the relegation battle is going right down to the wire. Once those small matters have been wrapped up we have the annual awards ceremony to look forward to, celebrating the talent that has been displaying their skills and dazzling the fans. The ‘PSL Player of the Season’ award is given to the most outstanding player of the season. We’ll be looking at some of the real contenders for the top prize in 2016/17 below.
Where to even begin. We’ll pick up where we left off with last season’s winner, Khama Billiat. 10 goals and 14 assists in the 2015/16 campaign helped Mamelodi Sundowns to a record 7th league title, 14 points clear of Bidvest Wits in the end. The title chase is over this season and while his 8 goals and 7 assists thus far kept them in the hunt, the Zimbabweans figures are down compared to a year ago. What a year it has been though. A first CAF Champions League trophy followed their success on home soil – only the second time a South African team has won the continental showpiece. This year however, it seems that like Sundowns, Billiat has challengers for his coveted crown.
Cape Town City have had a fairy-tale in their first-ever season. They have captured the hearts of fans in the Mother City and have played beautiful football at times to become one of the real title favourites. Despite falling away in recent weeks, they will still have one trophy to add to their cabinet at the end of their inaugural campaign. City won the Telkom Knockout beating Supersport United in the final in December and their success has been largely down to a deadly South African duo. The pair of Aubrey Ngoma (27) and Lebogang Manyama (26) have really lit up the PSL stage this season. Manyama leads the race for the Golden Boot with 13 goals while team-mate Ngoma leads the way in terms of assists with 12 to his name already. He has also contributed a further 4 goals leading coach Eric Tinkler to suggest that he should bag the main prize “Taking nothing away from what Manyama has done, but Ngoma has been consistent throughout the season in terms of the goals and assists he has provided.”Percy Tau has really started to make a name for himself since re-joining Bafana baStyle late last year. The 23-year-old was tasked with filling the void left by winger Keegan Dolly who departed for Montpellier in France and what a job he has done. 7 goals and 9 assists in the league so far, he scored his first goal for the national side in March in just his third appearance. He has contributed to a greater number of goals overall than Billiat and with 2 games still left to play, he could very well look to cement his place as the new main man for Masandawana.Bidvest Wits’ attack is spear-headed by a young, Malawian striker Hellings ‘Gabadinho’ Mhango. 9 goals and 4 assists in 24 appearances have helped The Celever Boys seal an unprecedented first-ever title with one game left to play. It is hard to make a case against the 24-year-old scooping the award that has gone to a player from the winning team in 3 of the last 4 seasons (Billiat in 15/16; Mashamaite in 14/15 and Khune in 12/13). Interestingly, the only player to buck that recent trend was another man from Wits – Sibusiso Vilakazi, now at Sundowns, who took home the award in 2013/14 when The Brazilians won the league title.In the 20 years that the PSL Player of the Season has been awarded, 19 different winners have gotten their hands on the trophy. Siyabonga Nomvethe is the only player to have won it more than once – first with Kaizer Chiefs in 1999/2000 and then again with Moroka Swallows in 2011/12 therefore a couple of outsiders to keep an eye on in this years’ 21st edition include Polokwane City’s veteran midfielder, 35-year-old Jabulani Maluleke (6 goals & 7 assists) and Supersport United’s very own kiwi, New Zealand international Jeremy Brockie (8 goals & 4 assists).