|Siyabonga very much: Nomvethe receives|
his award from Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula
THE row over the PSL Footballer of the Season award handed to Moroka Swallows veteran Siyabonga Nomvethe on Sunday night refuses to go away.
Orlando Pirates fans are adamant their own Siyabonga - Sangweni - deserved the ultimate accolade on a night when the 34-year-old "Bhele" won FOUR awards, picking up cheques worth R600,000 in slightly less than an hour. While prospective gamblers at the surrounding Gold Reef City were desperately prospecting for a few rands around them, South Africa's footballing fraternity were left open-mouthed as Nomvethe - fresh from scoring a hat-trick on his return to Bafana Bafana in a friendly against club side Impala Warriors earlier in the day - was forced to use his aching legs to get to the stage time and again.
Three of those awards were won without serious debate.
The R50,000 PSL golden boot, named after the late Buccaneer Lesley Manyathela, was a matter of mathematics. Nomvethe reached 20 League goals this season and ended eight clear of his rivals, including the 34-year-old Benni McCarthy.
He also scooped the R150,000 PSL Player of the Season accolade ahead of team-mate David Mathebula and Sangweni.
And a quick count of votes among his peers saw Nomvethe take the Player's Player of the Season cheque for R150,000.
But it was the R250,000 Footballer of the Season - awarded by Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula to the best player in all competitions, not just the PSL - that got the Ghost's goat.
While Nomvethe shone in the League and failed with coach of the season Gordon Igesund's Swallows in the cups, Sangweni played 28 League games for the Buccaneers, scoring vital goals against Bloemfontein Celtic and Golden Arrows in the title-clinching final two games.
He also played in EVERY knock-out match, where Pirates won the MTN8 trophy and the Telkom Knock-out, where Sangweni was voted defender of the tournament.
Just like last year, when Ajax Cape Town's Thulani Serero won the award - voted for by the 16 PSL coaches - ahead of Andile Jali, Augusto Palacios was making Ruud Krol-style waves.
Pirates' Peruvian caretaker coach - still not sure of his future next season - told kickoff.com: "I think our man deserved it on merit. Of course Sangweni is disappointed.
"I respect what Nomvethe did, but I feel Sangweni deserved this one. Sangweni was also a part of the national team throughout the season, so for me personally this was his award.
"I don't dispute what Nomvete did, but Sangweni did well in ALL competitions."
And of course he's right. With seven goals in all competitions, the 30-year-old from Empangeni, whose younger brother Thamsanqa has just left Amazulu for Sundowns, did do the business.
But here's the problem. There were so many other prominent Pirates who did well in all competitions during another historic treble-winning season for the Sea Robbers.
Benni McCarthy, who won the ABSA-lutely stunning goal of the season for his overhead kick, also picked up the Telkom Knock-out goal and player of the tournament awards. And he produced the two late goals which won the title in Durban just over a week ago.
And then there's the captain, Lucky Lekgwathi who, at 35, scored what was eventually the most important goal of the season, the last-gasp effort which overcame stubborn SuperSports United a month ago.
The 35-year-old from GaRankuwa would have been my choice as South Africa's best player this season - but he wasn't nominated for ANY award on Sunday night.
Perhaps Sangweni's failure shows just how much talent the Pirates had on show rather than how much other Premier coaches dislike the black-and-white.
Sangweni himself, of course, showed no sign of discomfort. He told Soccer Laduma: “Nomvethe deserved the big award. Honestly, Bhele worked hard this past season - I’m happy for him, which is why I congratulated him and would like to congratulate him once again.
“I can’t blame anyone because those who selected him believed he was more deserving. We see things differently, as some people think I should’ve won the award but that’s how football is. I have no hard feelings about it because being nominated in almost every award means I did well and I’m happy about it.”
So Siyabongas all round it is. And for my money, Nomvethe's goal glut was THE story of the season. He scored more goals in percentage terms than Robin van Persie scored for "one man team" Arsenal, and the man from KwaMashu almost single-handedly propelled the Dube Birds from relegation fodder to championship contenders.
For that, Bhele deserved everything he got on Sunday night, which was a thoroughly enjoyable occasion.
But one last question: Where was the voice of the PSL, Robert Marawa of MetroFm, SABCtv and SuperSport? I know, but I'm afraid I can't tell you.
You can follow me on www.twitter.com/nealcol or watch my regular Monday morning appearances on eNews and eTV Sunrise. And read www.thenewage.co.za every Tuesday for my "Neal and Pray" column.