Mapeza focuses on the future rather than the past, Coach says break helped him recharge batteries
Augustine Hwata Sports Reporter
NORMAN Mapeza says it feels good to be back in the fast lane of football, after over two years of frustrations on the sidelines, which derailed a coaching career that many felt was destined for the stars.
The former Zimbabwe captain and coach — who became the first local in-field player to feature in the Uefa Champions League during his days at Turkish giants Galatasaray in the 1994-1995 season — has been appointed head coach of FC Platinum.
Mapeza replaced Lloyd Mutasa, who stepped down last week after failing to meet targets set by leaders of the ambitious club, widely regarded as the richest football team in the country, in yet another blow to Samaita’s faltering coaching career.
He returns to the trenches of coaching in the Premiership exactly six years after his last job in the top-flight league when he led Monomotapa, then a modest Harare club, to the league championship in his biggest achievement as a coach.
Mapeza has been jobless since he fell out with Zifa, in the drama that followed the Warriors’ failure to qualify for the 2012 Nations Cup finals, culminating in his six-month ban from the game for the part he allegedly played in the Asiagate match-fixing scandal.
He has always maintains his innocence and, although he was banned for just six months, Mapeza was never officially advised of the expiry of that short-term ban, when it elapsed, and a number of opportunities, including a chance to return to CAPS United as a coach, passed him.
A few months ago, Mapeza was linked to Triangle, ZPC Kariba, Highlanders and even Harare giants Dynamos, but he returns to mainstream football as head coach at FC Platinum.
The Zvishavane side had been persistently stalking Mapeza.
“It’s good to be back in football. Football is our life,” Mapeza told The Herald yesterday, saying he was more concerned with his future than the past.
“So many people have been asking me questions on when I would be returning to football, but I told them that I wanted the dust to settle down first.
“Now it’s the chance to move ahead but I knew that one day I would be back,” he said.
Given that he remained contractually tied to Zifa, until this year, even though the association replaced him with another coach, Mapeza could not commit himself to another job — saying that he was chained by the contract, even though the association was not paying him his dues.
In November 2012, an arbitrator ruled that his indefinite suspension on allegations of match-fixing and illegal betting was unlawful and ordered Zifa to pay him salaries and benefits from February that year to April 2014.
Arbitrator, Caleb Mucheche, Mucheche ordered Zifa to pay Mapeza US$94 071, for the period stretching from February to October 2012 and a further US$5 000 a month from November 2012 to April 2014, which could bring his total earnings, minus allowances and bonuses, to about US$174 071.
The arbitrator ruled that Mapeza’s suspension was a mockery of an exercise and the association had “traded a legal minefield with reckless abandon.”
He ruled that Mapeza’s treatment could only be expected in hell and his battle for redemption resembled the “deep agony of a victim of naked injustice at the hands of spineless, heartless and cruel taskmaster . . .”
During his time away from mainstream football, Mapeza said he still played a part in developing and nurturing talent locally.
“I was helping with coaching at St John’s College in Harare,” said Mapeza.
“I know a lot people are waiting to see how I will perform at FC Platinum but for now I need to settle down first.
“I preferred to stay away. At the same time it was a good rest and I hope that I have recharged the batteries and could also have new ideas now,” he said.
On Saturday, Mapeza could be on the bench when FC Platinum face Bantu Rovers in a Chibuku Super Cup match at Mandava, his first assignment as a coach of a domestic Premiership club since December 22, 2008, when he guided Monomotapa to a goalless draw against Lengthens.
That was enough to give his side the league championship, by a two-point cushion, over Dynamos whose 3-2 win over Kiglon, in their final game of the season, wasn’t enough to make it back-to-back league titles.
Mapeza has a number of admirers, including the chairman of the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Education, Sport, Arts and Culture Temba Mliswa, who told a Zifa delegation last week that he felt they should have kept the coach for longer and, it’s possible, they could have reaped huge rewards.
FC Platinum have a psychological advantage after having won the first meeting against Bantu Rovers in a league match, 1-0 at Mandava through a goal by the highly-rated Marshall Mudehwe.
But this is a new game and a Cup match, for that matter, where anything could happen.
While the spotlight in the Chibuku Super Cup could be falling on Mapeza, a lot will also be on log leaders ZPC Kariba who remain the only team with an unbeaten run this season.
ZPC Kariba meet Harare City at Rimuka with hopes high that Saul Chaminuka’s side could progress to the next round, although that is not cast in stone.
Patson Ndabambi, ZPC Kariba team manager, said they were not underrating Harare City at all.
“The Cup game is different from the league. A result like a draw in a league match will be good because it’s a marathon but a draw in a cup game is not okay because we might lose in the penalties.
“So we need to get a result that will take us to the next stage. We beat Harare City in the league, but this is a new game altogether and they also have a new coach,” he said.
Harare giants CAPS United play Chapungu at Rufaro, while Dynamos clash with Black Rhinos at Gwanzura with Highlanders seeking redemption with a win in a first round tie against Shabanie at Luveve.
Highlanders will today know their fate following the violence that rocked Barbourfields on Saturday after they lost 1-0 to bitter rivals Dynamos in a league match.
Premier Soccer League chief executive Kenny Ndebele said they have compiled reports and he now awaits to brief his boss Twine Phiri before issuing out a statement on the action they will take against Highlanders.
As it stands, Highlanders are likely to be summoned before a disciplinary hearing.
Dynamos won the match 1-0 and the Glamour Boys chairman Kenny Mubaiwa told our sister publication H-Metro that they were considering a boycott of all matches against Bosso at Barbourfields unless the league guarantees that hooliganism will not mar their games against the Bulawayo side.
Chibuku Super Cup First Round Fixtures
Saturday: ZPC Kariba v Harare City (Rimuka); FC Platinum v Bantu Rovers (Mandava); CAPS United v Chapungu United (Rufaro); How Mine v Chicken Inn (luveve).
Sunday: Dynamos v Black Rhinos (Gwanzura); Highlanders v Shabanie (Luveve); Hwange v Triangle (Colliery); Buffaloes v Chiredzi (Sakubva)