PSL fullbacks bemoan lack of recognition

Sifiso Hlanti.
Sifiso Hlanti.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images

The infrequency of fullbacks winning the Defender of the Season prize in the Premier Soccer League (PSL) awards leaves some of the country's best in this position feeling overlooked as centre-backs always dominate.

SuperSport United right-back Siyabonga Nhlapo and Bidvest Wits left-back Sifiso Hlanti, who alongside Cape Town City's right-back Thamsanqa Mkhize, were nominated for this award, but pipped to it by Mamelodi Sundowns centre-back Ricardo Nascimento last season, are among the league's fullbacks who've voiced their concerns about the rarity of left-backs and right-backs winning this prize.

Thami Mkhize.
Thami Mkhize.
Image: Ryan Wilkisky/BackpagePix

Nhlapo reckons if the Defender of the Season gong was equitable, Mkhize and Thapelo Morena of Mamelodi Sundowns should've already clinched it in the past.

"It's not a matter of what I think, evidence is there that PSL awards overlook fullbacks. Thami [Mkhize] was wonderful last season. He should have won it ahead of Nascimento, but because Nascimento is a centre-back he went away with it," said Nhlapo. "You look at those situations as a fellow fullback and despair. You look at Thapelo Morena. He's been doing well, but he hasn't been nominated even once."

The 31-year-old Matsatsantsa wing-back further insinuated the task of a fullback was more daunting than that of a typical central defender.

"The overall work of a fullback is not appreciated. When a team leads, as a fullback you can't go forward.

Thapelo Morena of Sundowns is highly rated by fellow defenders but not PSL awards judges.
Thapelo Morena of Sundowns is highly rated by fellow defenders but not PSL awards judges.
Image: Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix

"Our role is very difficult... it's a role where you need a lot of understanding of football," said Nhlapo.

"It's you who stops the most dangerous players from the opposite team, which are the wingers. If I can shut down a winger and we win the game, that's when they see my importance."

Hlanti, a current Bafana Bafana first choice left-back, echoed Nhlapo's sentiments. However, the 30-year-old is still at peace with the overall judging process, especially in this particular category.

"As a fullback you have to attack and defend at the same time. Centre-backs are only there to thwart danger... they only attack through set-plays. So, our job is harder than theirs in a way," said Hlanti.

"It would be nice to see fullbacks winning this award as well. We are always isolated as fullbacks. However, at the end of the day we must respect the judges' decision." 

Defender of the Season gong winners in the past five seasons (all were centre-backs)

2014/15: Tefu Mashamaite (Kaizer Chiefs)

2015/16: Thabo Nthethe (Sundowns)

2016/17:Thulani Hlatshwayo (Bidvest Wits)

2017/18: Siyanda Xulu (Maritzburg United)

2018/19: Ricardo Nascimento (Sundowns)

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