Wesley Botton
Chief sports writer
2 minute read
16 May 2014
11:00 am

Individual soccer awards always skewed

Wesley Botton

On Sunday night the Premier Soccer League will award the best performers in what has been an uninspiring season.

Wesley Botton.

The convenor of judges, Farouk Khan admitted as much, arguing that he hopes that by rewarding players it will inspire them to raise their game next season.

I don’t have a problem with rewarding excellence, but individual awards, anywhere in the world, in a team sport will always be skewed. For starters, attack-minded players have an advantage. They dominate the history of all prestigious award ceremonies. It will take a goalkeeper or defender 10 times more effort to get acknowledged.

The reason being, as Uruguayan author Eduardo Galeano wrote: “The goal is soccer’s fiesta: the striker sparks delight and the goalkeeper, a wet blanket, snuffs it out.”

In the 17 times the PSL has honoured players, just four of those have been defensive players. This season Sboniso Gumede was one of the best players in the country, but wasn’t even given a look in. Alje Schut is among those nominated for Footballer-of-the-Year, but he marshalled a porous Mamelodi Sundowns defence that was stabilised by the arrival of Thabo Nthethe. But Schut captained a Sundowns side that won the Absa Premiership, that’s why he is shortlisted.

That’s when it gets complicated and skewed. Your team has to have won something, some argue, for you to win an award. But Siyabonga Nomvethe, Thulani Serero and Teko Modise all won this prestigious award without their teams winning the Holy Grail that is the Absa Premiership. Since they are attack-minded players that reasoning could slide.

Then there is the issue of the number of matches played. That criterion fell for this season’s awards. If it was still there, it would be hard to defend Modise’s inclusion in the Player’s Player-of-the-Season. He only started shining in the latter parts of the campaign, having fizzled and was relegated to the stands midway to the season after an uninspiring start, but take nothing away from his contribution to the successful Brazilians campaign.

Negotiating past who deserves to get an individual award is harder than navigating a minefield. That’s why individual awards are skewed, the individual can never shine without the team. A striker needs assists, even to score a paltry 10 goals.