Best of season

It is that time of the domestic football season when SportsXtra sticks out its neck on the chopping board, without fear or favour, picking players deemed to have been stand-out performers in the Super League season.

This time around, it is as the 2011/2012 TNM season comes to an end this weekend.

The players were picked with consultation from a team of reporters who gave the Super League decent coverage. Consistency, individual brilliance, work-rate and contribution to team and discipline were some of the benchmarks for the selection criteria. Of course, football is a game of emotions; some choices might have unconsciously been as a result of biased opinion.

Coach: Alex Masanjala (Civo United)

Sometimes the best way to judge fake coaches is through how often they refuse to accept defeat, blame referees, the pitch, the wind, ‘sabotage by other coaches eyeing my job’ and even witchcraft. Not with the veteran Masanjala. He quietly sits on the bench letting his boys play without pressure.

He knows that yelling from the touchline cannot do anything if players did not get it right in five days at training. Masanjala develops ordinary players and is patient with them. Whether Civo are trailing or winning their playing philosophy is never tampered with. The only reason Masanjala is not always talked of highly is that he does not seem to have luck which sometimes determines success in football.

Charles Swini (Escom United)

In an era when domestic coaches are not so particular with attributes of specialised goal keeping position, the goal-minder has the physical presence, shot-stopping skills, outstanding ‘positional’ sense and consistency to match. While he can do more on communicating and organising his defence, Swini has been the best.

Foster Namwela (Mighty Wanderers)

The Nomads captain is solid and consistent since overcoming the injuries that slowed down his progress last season. He has the power, speed and timing for a man-marker and sweeper. He is also versatile he can play from the back, he overlaps if featured as a right back and is never shy to add numbers ‘upfront’ when his team is taking set-pieces.

Pilira Makupe (Civo United)

He is an old school centre-back who never wastes time being fancy with the ball or trying to endear himself to the crowd. He plays safety-first football; he is good in the air, athletic and takes no prisoners on the tackle.

Mustafa Salimu (Silver Strikers)

The Silver Strikers boy has since 2010 shown that he can develop into one of the best left-backs in the country. He just needs a good trainer to work on his rough edges. His biggest weakness is his poor sense of positioning.

He gets carried away when overlapping. But the former Moyale Barracks wing-back, who has of late been getting the nod ahead of Ndaziona Chilemba at Silver, is very talented, he can tackle, play from the back and cross the ball. Watching him reminds of a young Moses Chavula.

Steve Chagoma (Blue Eagles)

The Blue Eagles man has the potential even though he has a long way to go. He has aggression and work-rate to match.

John Banda (Blue Eagles)

Civo United coach Alex Masanjala feels the Blue Eagles player is better suited when slotted behind strikers as an attacker. But such is his versatility; Banda excelled as a right-winger at recent Cecafa Tusker Senior Challenge Cup in Tanzania, weighing in his steady performance with a goal in 2-0 win over hopeless Kenya.

Voted Standard Bank Knockout Player of the Tournament, Banda can also play on the left-wing. He has the work-rate, pace and trickery. His biggest challenge is to keep his feet on the ground and not let fame get into his head.

Jimmy Chikulekule (Blantyre United)

So vital is a cog in United’s midfield’s creative department that watching United minus their skipper is like the sight of sinking Titanic abandoned by its captain.

He can measure his passes that make his ordinary teammates look elegant, slow and up the pace of the game.

He is a ball-winner, he can dribble and his efficiency is evidenced by his being the team’s second leading scorer and earning Under-20 call-up. Just keep away from sights and sounds of Blantyre, be consistent again next season then a flight will be booked for you.

Chimango Kaira (Escom United)

Who watches him week in, week out? Of course certainly not the lazy Flames coaches. But if truth be told there is no complete better central midfielder that this Escom man. In this line-up we play 4-4-2, so he will play as anchor due to the presence of Chikulekule.

Weld Nkuliwa (Moyale Barracks)

It is a close call on the left-wing, where some claim there is an acute shortage of competitors, between the Moyale Barracks boy and Blantyre United’s Dalitso Sailesi. Nkuliwa gets the nod as he is stronger and is more experienced.

Gastin Simkonda (Moyale Barracks)

While Thindwa has something to prove next season, the Moyale star forward has done it over and over again. His 16 goals, which place him as the Super League’s second scorer, are just the latest reminder of his consistency. He is versatile and can play off the wings. He is a complete forward.

Ishmael Thindwa (Epac FC)

SportsXtra feels it is too early to declare that the Epac man, reportedly currently attending trials at Mamelodi Sundowns in South Africa, is the next big thing waiting to happen in striking force. Caution cannot be thrown to the wind.

The lanky striker has a long way to go. He is not aggressive enough and there should be questions of his consistency following his erratic scoring in the second half of the season.

But this boy has lovely technique, eye for goal, a sweet left foot and the deadly composure of a serial sniper. His 18 goals that could make him Golden Boot Award winner speak enough for Thindwa.

Assistant coach: Nicholas Mhango (Moyale Barracks)

Substitutes

Richard Chipuwa (MTL Wanderers)

Dalitso Sailesi (Blantyre United)

Henry Kabichi (Big Bullets)

Heston Munthali (Escom United)

Peter Pindani (Silver Strikers)

Ken Mponda (Blue Eagles)

Bongani Kaipa (Mighty Wanderers)

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