Kudzai Chingwere in Gweru and Sikhumbuzo Moyo in Bulawayo
FC PLATINUM’s worst fears were confirmed yesterday after they were orphaned out of their fortress, Mandava, to an alternative venue, Barbourfields, following the condemnation of their base to host the Champions League group stage matches by the Confederation of African Football.
CAF raised reservations on Mandava’s eligibility to host matches at this level of the competition with fears over the lighting at the stadia and the size of the media area to host an army of journalist which usually accompany teams at this level.
When it became inevitable that their fortress will not be allowed to host the Champions League mini-league matches, FC Platinum on Monday expressed their disillusionment, saying such a move is a violation of the underlying principles behind the formation of the club.
The Zvishavane-based miners are in the same pool with South African premiership heavyweights Orlando Pirates, Esperance of Tunisia and Horoya AC of Guinea.
But drawing Orlando Pirates and being asked to move out of Zvishavane for their home matches is likely to come as a nightmare with the visitors likely to enjoy a larger following contrasted to the host.
The Buccaneers penchant for local talent has won them several Zimbabwean hearts with the likes of Innocent Chikoya, Zvenyika Makonese, Edelbert Dinha, Charles Yohane and Takesure Chinyama having previously played for them.
In their current squad they have Warriors stars Kudakwashe Mahachi and Marshal Munetsi, the duo is guaranteed local support if they come to the country.
But the decision to move the match to Barbourfields comes even before the continental football mother-body has done the inspection of Mandava to see if it meets expected standards of playing host to pool games which also include floodlights.
CAF had confirmed yesterday that it will be sending an inspection team to Mandava ahead of the start of the Group B games.
But ZIFA later indicated yesterday through their communications manager, Xolisani Gwesela, that the FC Platinum’s Champions League Group B opener against the Buccaneers will be played at Barbourfields on January 12.
“The Zimbabwe Football Association (ZIFA) advises the football family that FC Platinum’s Total Champions League group match against Orlando Pirates will be played at Barbourfields Stadium in Bulawayo.
“The Confederation of African Football (CAF) advised ZIFA that FC Platinum’s traditional home ground, Mandava Stadium, does not meet minimum requirements for this stage of Africa’s prestigious club competition.
“The other stadium homologated by CAF to host group stage matches for inter-club competitions is the National Sports Stadium but FC Platinum selected Barbourfields Stadium for convenience.
“The match between FC Platinum and Orlando Pirates will be played on 12 January 2019 at 3pm.
“CAF will conduct further inspections for Mandava Stadium, Barbourfields Stadium and the National Sports stadium going forward.
“We wish FC Platinum all the best,” Gwesela said in a Press release late yesterday afternoon.
And FC Platinum were naturally disappointed by CAF’s decision to move their high profile match against Orlando Pirates from their Mandava fortress to Barbourfields.
“We are naturally depressed because it came as a surprise in the 11th hour that our Mandava venue might not meet the requirements of CAF. Both our players and supporters will have to take it positive so that as a team we don’t lose focus. We, however, take solace in that Barbourfields was our alternative venue for any eventualities on Mandava and we will urge all our fans who can travel to do so in numbers,” said the club’s media relations officer Chido Chizondo in a statement yesterday.
She urged football-loving fans in the City of Kings and Queens to come in their numbers and cheer the platinum boys as they will be representing the greater nation, Zimbabwe.
“We also appeal to fans in Bulawayo and all over Zimbabwe to come in numbers to support FC Platinum who are flying the flag of the country,” said Chizondo.
Pure Platinum Play resumed their preparations for the Champions League group stages yesterday and are now likely going to shift their training base from Zvishavane to Bulawayo.
After playing host to the Sea Robbers, FC Platinum will fly out to Tunisia to take on Champions League defending champions Esperance.
The Zvishavane miners played their two qualifying matches at Mandava, beating Madagascar’s CNaps 1-0 to eventually knock them out 2-1 on aggregate while they played to a goalless draw with Republic of Congo’s AS Otoho to sail through on away goals rule after holding the Congolese side to a 1-1 draw in the first leg of the first round tie in Owando.
The top two sides from the group will progress to the quarter-finals of the lucrative continental club tournament.