Daily News 2014 Sports Awards

Sportsperson of the Year: Charles Manyuchi

“DESPITE the struggle for money, talent will always prevail,” aptly describes Charles Manyuchi’s 2014 season that saw him overcame a mine field of financial hurdles to end a hugely satisfying year.

His is a remarkable story. Hailing from Masvingo, without a gym or adequate training equipment, successfully defending the World Boxing Council (WBC) title as he did was nothing short of sensational.

It was a success story that he shares with Zambian stable, Oriental Quarries Boxing Promotions (OQBP), who have taken Manyuchi under their wings since he turned professional a few years back.

Such was his dominance in the ring it led Zambia’s Youth and Sports minister Chishimba Kambwili to offer Manyuchi a Zambian national citizenship.

Ever loyal to his homeland, Manyuchi declined the offer, despite lack of support from his fellow countrymen.

It was, however, refreshing to see him land the Sportsperson of the Year Award at the Annual National Sports Awards (Ansa) in December.

That recognition followed a year that Manyuchi started by claiming the WBC vacant welterweight title by defeating Ghanaian Patrick Allotey in March.

He then successfully defended his belt by beating Colombian Devis Caceres by a technical knockout.

The 26-year-old has a professional record of 15 wins, two losses and one draw.

Runner-up: At 35, not many would bet former world number one doubles player Cara Black still had it in her to scale the lofty standards she set in her prime.

But just like wine, the Harare-born ace has only got better with age.

Cara’s form on the WTA circuit was phenomenon

She recorded 49 wins in 2014 with her Indian partner Sania Mirza.

In November, Cara rose to world number four on the doubles rankings after clinching the WTA Tour Finals doubles title with Indian partner Sania Mirza in Singapore.

The country’s only remaining world-class tennis player since the retirement of her brothers Byron and Wayne Black alongside Kevin Ullyett – Cara remains to this day one of Zimbabwe’s truly international-class sporting ambassadors – prospering as a doubles specialist for the better part of a 16-year-old career.

Cara who has won over 50 WTA titles duly earns the Daily News Sportsperson of the Year runner up.

Hero of the Year: Charles Manyuchi

IN AN era where putting food on the table is chief priority too many – especially those living in a country reeling under serious economic challenges – accepting a citizenship offer from somewhere, where your bread is buttered, cannot be viewed as lack of patriotism.

Charles Manyuchi – the Zimbabwean boxer we have rated the country’s finest athlete for 2014 – made headlines in the year, not just for his exploits on the ring, but for politely turning down the citizenship of Zambia, the home of his promoters, Oriental Quarries Boxing Promotions (OQBP).

The old adage that no prophet is recognised in his own country rings true to Manyuchi, who has enjoyed enormous support in Zambia, and little of it in his country of birth.

Only the irrational in our midst would begrudge Tendai Mtawarira for accepting the offer to represent the Springboks, where he had a better opportunity of not only becoming the truly world-class rugby player that he has become, but make a small fortune for himself.

Same applies to Manyuchi.

Patriotism, though, is a great feeling of loyalty and allegiance, a virtue that we treasure and born with, for the love of our country. Whoever exhibits these qualities, more so under pressure from the material and monetary comfort offered by others, as Manyuchi did, deserve the praise and recognition of the land.

Villain of the Year: Daniel Hondo

ONE of the finest Zimbabwean sportsmen of our era, Sables captain Daniel Hondo, made a terrible blunder that cost the nation a place at next year’s Rugby World Cup – the biggest sporting showpiece on the globe after the Fifa World Cup and Summer Olympics.

The Sables were a try away from booking tickets to England 2015, leading Kenya 28-10 in that qualifier in Madagascar – and some of us were already bracing up to receive the challenge of the Haka from the All Blacks sometime in September this year.

We just needed a fourth try to secure bonus point, and Kenya were 14 men down for slowing down the ball at the breakdown.

Zimbabwe were awarded a penalty in the 22, and despite a teammate calling for the corner, skipper Hondo chose the posts option and with that died a dream.

Other options, much better choices, were to call for a scrum or kick for a lineout.

That didn’t happen, effectively putting the destiny in the hands of hapless Madagascar, who were duly hammered by the Namibians, the later denying us a place at William Webb Ellis Trophy for the first time in 22 years.

Blame has been thrown around following that tragedy, with the former director of rugby Liam Middleton (who sat on the bench throughout the qualifiers), taking a huge amount of flak for that atrocious decision. And it’s hard to defend him, given the man’s thinly-veiled dictatorial tendencies.

But Danny is the captain and the symbol of the team on the field, and the decision ultimately was hiss and his lieutenants.

Spare a thought for him, though, he is feeling much worse. And at 32, that was his last chance to ever play in a World Cup. But we feel more for the multitudes who love the game and are still trying to come to terms, and the game, which missed a wonderful opportunity to change forever.

Team of the Year: Dynamos Football Club

AGAINST the year of averageness, Dynamos deserves to be crowned Team of the Year for successfully defending their title in stunning fashion for the fourth successive year under stern challenge from debutants ZPC Kariba.

Going into the last day of the season, flat money was on ZPC beating CAPS United to win their maiden title in only their first season in the top-flight, but they faltered when it mattered most and were handed a 3-2 defeat with DeMbare beating How Mine 2-0 to lift the title.

In a season the Glamour Boys had one of their average seasons in years, winning the championship is an ample proof of the character, courage and class of the most supported football club in the country.

And that DeMbare won three other trophies in the 2014 season is further evidence of true champions. It is in the African Champions League where DeMbare stuttered in the past three years bowing out in the first round of the competition.

But despite the unconvincing display in Africa, it is difficult to forget them on the domestic scene, where they have been the most consistent and most successful team of the year on the Zimbabwe sporting calendar in 2014.  

Of course, ZPC Kariba deserves special mention for the manner they fought all the way in their first year in the PSL, especially for a team coming from Division One.   

Coach of the Year: Calisto Pasuwa

OUTGOING Dynamos coach Calisto Pasuwa did sufficiently enough to be honoured as the country’s best after winning his fourth straight league title.

Pasuwa, modest and unassuming, wrote his own piece of history by becoming the first Zimbabwean coach to win four league titles on the trot when he led DeMbare to their 21st domestic crown.

It’s, however, surprising that for all the four years that Pasuwa has won the title, he has only won the award once (2012) and was not even appreciated by the ones he served.

Pasuwa was always fighting battles on two fronts with club bosses time and again threatened to relieve him of his duties when results were not going the club’s way. It did not come as a surprise when the 43-year old declined to renew his contract upon its expiry.

The former Glamour Boys midfielder might have struggled to make a mark in the African Champions League, but Pasuwa has sealed his place in the hearts of Dynamos with his enviable feat.

Most promising Athlete of the Year: Scott Vincent

MAKING a mark in a foreign land is never the easiest thing to do, more so if you are 12874 kilometers away from home is rerkmakable.

But Scott Vincent has taken it in his stride in the town of Blacksburg in Virginia, United States, as a member of the Virginia Tech golf team.

Vincent has been setting the stage alight with a stretch of stellar play for Virginia Tech that has had the hallmarks of a future PGA tour golfer.

The US-based junior golfer was on a roll this past year breaking records and winning three tournaments.

His thrilling run of form saw him overtaking fellow countryman Brendan de Jonge, in the Virginia Tech scoring books.

That feat came after Vincent entered 2014 spring first in all-time scoring at Virginia Tech with a 72.07 average after having led the team in the fall with a 69.71 average.

The rising golf sensation went on to make history by being named a PING First-Team All-American, the first-ever Virginia Tech golfer (Hokie) to garner first team honours from the GCAA.

Before that accolade he had finished tied for 35th at the 2014 NCAA Men’s Golf Championships in Hutchinson, Kansas, and finished third in the 2014 NCAA Auburn Regional on May 17.

The Chapman Golf Club prodigy had been gaining momentum since setting a school record with three individual victories.

Those wins saw Vincent twice named Golfweek Player of the Week during the fall as well as being named the Atlantic Coast Conference (AAC) Men’s Golfer of the Month for the month of September.

It thus came as no surprise when the top Zimbabwean amateur golfer was named in the initial watch list for the prestigious Ben Hogan Award, given annually to the top collegiate golfer in the United States.

The county’s leading amateur was duly extended an invitation by the Zimbabwe Open Golf Committee to take part in the Golden Pilsener Zimbabwe Open.

Vincent lived up to expectations, making the cut and finishing tied for 24, concluding as the highest placed amateur golfer, way ahead of local professionals Ryan Cairns, 64, and Ignatius Mteketeke, 69.

The former St John’s College pupil’s 24th position came after he signed for combined score of 282 that included rounds of 73-70-72-67.

Mambara of the Year: Stephen Mangongo

THIS award is in recognition of the man’s sheer nativity during his short-lived tenure as Zimbabwe cricket coach, not so much the results on the field (which were disastrous in any case).

One day, it’s our all hope that Zimbabwe will have an indigenous coach for our Test cricket team – but one with the dignity and integrity befitting that position.

Failure to take criticism in his stride, on occasions hitting out at critics in a manner unfit of a public figure in the end probably contributed to former Zimbabwe cricket coach Stephen Mangongo’s demise.

The calls for Mangongo’s removal were loud and clear, the majority from the long-suffering same black people who now form the core of the cricketing public in this country.

The race card as a smokescreen for ineffectiveness is an excuse that can no longer so easily fool a lot of people in this country.

And to despise people who have one way or another contributed to your ascendancy, alienating the same people and labelling them willing tools of an imaginary hidden hand – is a level on insecurity that requires deliverance.

Cricket is a national sport. It’s not the preserve of a few individuals, or a club. And as such, decisions made must be for the majority and greater good of the game. Under Mangongo that was not the case – and average players from his Takashinga club often found themselves in the team at the expense of several better cricketers, both black and white.

The position of a national coach of a national sport carries the burden of ever-present scrutiny, and if one is not prepared for that, the exit door is open. Zimbabwe Cricket did not wait for that, thankfully, and last week sacked Mangongo following the Bangladesh carnage.

Runner-up: After a tough year for this man in this paper in the just-ended year, he will be slightly pleased he could only manage second in his category.

We will, for the sake of avoiding reiteration, not go into detail here. He has already received a mouthful from us already.

Quote of the Year

“Picture a rat. It lives under sofas, emerges at night while people are sleeping to steal food. If you take that rate= and change it into a human being, do you think it will want to become a rat again?” – Tatenda Taibu, the born-again retired Zimbabwe cricketer when asked by us if he missed the limelight and the glamour of international cricket.

Lowest Points of the Year: Warriors, Zim cricket team

TUMBLING out of the 2015 Africa Cup of the Nations at the first hurdle, at the hands of Tanzania, left the entire nation broken-hearted, heavily.

The county’s number one team, the Warriors, had once again failed to make it to Africa’s premier football showcase, and we have to watch from the sidelines again in Equatorial Guinea this month.

Cuthbert Dube, elected for a second term earlier in the year as Zifa president, has been blamed by lovers of the game for the current dire state-of-affairs. He has refused to step down, and instead, successfully won another term during the year.

Wither Zimbabwean football.

Cricket too

Worse has happened in Zimbabwean cricket, off the field. On it, we reached new levels of mediocrity with the whitewash defeat in Bangladesh.

That result will leave a deep scar on our nation’s cricket psyche, and it can be compared to all the previous misfortunes that have befallen the game here before; the rebel players walkout, the bitter player-board squabbles and in recent times the strikes.

The country’s two biggest sporting codes had a year to forget in 2014.

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