Grace Chingoma in Harare and Mukudzei Chingwere in Gweru
AFTER completing a memorable Premiership and cup double, high- riding FC Platinum have now shifted their focus to the Champions League amid strong indications that they have targeted the signatures of the seasoned pair of midfielders Liberty Chakoroma and Tendai Samanja.
FC Platinum earned the ticket to represent Zimbabwe in the Champions League following their triumph in the Castle Lager Premiership where they have finished two points ahead of Dynamos to end a decades’ long wait by a team from outside Harare and Bulawayo to win the championship.
On Saturday, Norman Mapeza’s men put the icing on the cake when they overcame Harare City 2-1 in a Castle Challenge Cup, which is part of the Premiership Soccer League’s Silver Jubilee celebrations.
But hardly had the celebrations died down in the mining town of Zvishavane than FC Platinum were already putting shoulders to the wheel in search of talent they believe could further strengthen their squad for their African adventure.
Chakoroma, who starred for the Warriors at the COSAFA Castle Cup in South Africa in June, heightened speculation about the possibility of his move to FC Platinum when he was spotted at Mandava on Saturday for the Challenge Cup tie between the miners and Harare City.
Interestingly, Samanja who is also believed to be on the radar of FC Platinum, featured in that game, albeit in a losing cause for Harare City.
With midfield enforcer Gerald Takwara still pursuing a move to Ajax Cape Town, Chakoroma is seen as a direct replacement while Samanja, who played under Mapeza at Monomotapa, also boasts some Champions League and Confederation Cup experience.
Takwara’s contract with the platinum miners is coming to an end and Ajax Cape Town are reported to be leading a number of South African clubs who after the gritty midfielder.
But Chakoroma will arrive at Mandava with bags of experience that might be useful in the African Safari. The defensive midfielder has played in the South African league before and also has international experience with the Warriors and with Ngezi Platinum Stars in the Confederations Cup.
Although he was coy on his actual transfer targets, Mapeza confirmed he would be raiding the market ahead of the start of the African Safari in which FC Platinum look set to start at the preliminary round stage.
The FC Platinum coach said he would ideally want two good players for every position in his squad.
“Some of the positions are okay but we have to prepare with league games in mind we cannot just prepare thinking of the Champions League, that is why I am saying in every position we need to have two quality players.
“If we are going to use one squad that is if we qualify to go far in the Champions League we will be in for it definitely, that is why I am saying in every position we need two players,” said Ma- peza.
Mapeza said divulging the names of his squad at this stage could jeopardise negotiations but the former Zimbabwe captain did not hide his ambitions to try and reach the group stage of Africa’s biggest club knockout tournament.
“No, I cannot say anything otherwise I will jeopardise everything.
“It will be good for us to reach maybe the group stages, if we reach the group stages then we can say guys this is where we are and let us push and see how far we can go but the most important thing is for us to get to the group stages,” said Mapeza.
Mapeza’s decision to bolster his squad might have been influenced by the way his CAPS United counterpart Lloyd Chitembwe battled to strike a balance between his Champions League and domestic commitments with a thin side.
While the stage appears set for Mapeza’s maiden dance with the Champions League game, the same cannot be said as of now for his Harare City counterpart Philani “Beefy’’ Ncube.
Although ZIFA have indicated to the Confederation of African Football that both Zimbabwean teams — FC Platinum and Harare City — will be taking part in the Safari, the Sunshine Boys’ participation is not yet as cut and dried as that of the miners.
Harare City had upon winning the Chibuku Super Cup declared through chairman Alois Masepe that they would take part in the Confederation Cup.
But following the Sunshine Boys’ demotion from the Premiership, Harare City are having to review their circumstances amid revelations that an executive meeting will decide on their fate.
Club treasurer Tendai Kwenda told Star FM radio that they are yet to meet as an executive over the decision.
Harare City officials are under pressure following claims by Mayor Bernard Manyenyeni that the club was blowing huge amounts of money at the expense of service delivery.
Kwenda is also the municipality’s treasurer said no official position had been taken on their Confederation Cup participation.
Coach Ncube will, however, be hoping that the executive clarifies the position on time in order for him to make recommendations on which players to retain for 2018.
“That should be more of an executive decision. As an executive, I don’t recall where we met and agreed that we are going to participate especially given the turn of events that we have, we have now been relegated and it might be a different issue altogether. I think confirmation on that (Confederation Cup participation) is not official, whatever maybe in the media is not the official position as to our participation.
“As an executive, as people running the affairs of the Harare City Football Club we are yet to meet. The intention yes, is to participate but I don’t want to pre-empt anything, we still need to meet as an executive and then agree on everything else,” said Kwenda.
Harare City have, however, vowed that they would want to bounce back into the Premiership by the end of the 2018 season.
Both FC Platinum and Harare City would, however, have to submit their initial squad lists to CAF by December 31 but the window will remain open until January 15 for amendments.