Comeback king Chinyengetere central to FC Platinum's second title
When on-fire FC Platinum midfielder Rodwell Chinyengetere suffered a horrific double fracture on his right shin in 2012, it looked as though Zimbabwean football had just witnessed another premature end to a promising career.
Fast forward to 2018, and the same player has not only reclaimed his place in the limelight, but he's also about to rewrite history by becoming the first man in nearly three decades to win back-to-back Soccer Star of the Year accolades after another season of outstanding individual endeavour.
Only Dynamos' seventies legend George Shaya and former Warriors skipper Peter Ndlovu have bagged the award in successive seasons since its inception back in 1969.
Chinyengetere's return of 10 goals in the last seven matches has powered FC Platinum to the brink of a second consecutive title, with the Zvishavane-based side now only needing a point in their next match against already relegated Shabanie Mine to land the championship.
For Chinyengetere it could turn out to be double delight, with the 30-year-old all but assured of the Golden Boot award as he leads the charts with 17 goals to add to his seven assists.
Platinum are far from being a one-man band; there have been some heroic performances from a defence that has conceded only 14 goals in 31 league matches.
All-action midfielder Farai Madanhanga, for his part, has often worked himself to a standstill.
The technical team and management have all played their part in a collective effort to fend off the spirited challenge of second-placed Ngezi Platinum Stars and ensure the Zvishavane-based outfit prolong their stay at the top.
Yet Chinyengetere's crucial role can never be overstated, with his form peaking at just about the perfect moment to propel the team to the finish line.
Indeed, the former Hwange man is yet to stop scoring since taking the match ball home following a hat-trick in the 6-0 demolition of Mutare City Rovers at the beginning of September.
Notably, he scored Platinum's only goal in the 1-1 draw against Black Rhinos, notched a brace in the 2-0 conquest of Herentals before proving the difference again this past Saturday as Platinum edged Nichrut 1-0.
The Kadoma-born star has single-handedly put seven points on the table in the title run-in, leaving many - including Mutare City coach Ndega Matsika - to celebrate him as the league's best player.
"He has been so good this season, when we played them he was unstoppable," Matsika told KweséESPN. "Apart from his three goals, he also created another two, I think.
"He is going to bag the soccer star award again, I am sure of that. It's not easy to score that many goals from midfield. He is a great player."
Inevitably, such form has earned Chinyengetere a recall to the Zimbabwe fold, where he marked his return with a substitute appearance in the 1-1 draw at home to the Democratic Republic of Congo last week.
A skilful attacking midfielder, Chinyengetere had made just two appearances for Zimbabwe when injury laid him low for 18 months, during which time he had feared the worst.
"When I got injured in 2012, I thought that was probably the end of my career," he told the Daily News in 2017. "After suffering that nightmarish double fracture, I never thought I would ever come back to play football again."
However, he resumed his career at Hwange in 2014, although the injury was still holding him back before ultimately earning the attention of Platinum.
A blunt strikeforce and a lack of character to withstand the pressure at the business end of campaigns had often derailed the Miners' quest for domestic glory ever since their debut season in the top flight in 2011.
Back then, and after using their considerable financial muscle to assemble a virtual Premier League select side, Platinum wilted under pressure to throw away a 10-point lead going into the last ten matches of the campaign, eventually losing out on goal difference to Dynamos.
They continued to struggle to impose their superiority despite attracting the best talent in the league, with Chicken Inn and CAPS United beating them to the finish line in 2015 and 2016 respectively.
Chinyengetere had arrived at the beginning of 2016, but it was not until the following season that he managed to steady the ship, scoring nine goals to emerge as the team's top scorer while helping them to a first title.
If the inspiration this season was to prove that 2017 was no fluke, then Chinyengetere has driven his point home in some style.