Tadious Manyepo

Sports Reporter

VETERAN coach Lizwe Sweswe watched in horror as one of the most iconic clubs in this country, Shabanie Mine was teetering towards collapse.

That was seven years ago.

It didn’t matter at the end of the day that Sweswe was at FC Platinum whom he would lead to the Castle Lager Premiership title in 2019.

It didn’t matter to him that Shabanie Mine was a rival team but as a football person, he felt sorry over the state of affairs prevailing at the team which subsequently got relegated at the end of that term. But amid all the crisis underlined by restiveness in their camp, Sweswe was impressed with how collected their then coach Takesure Chiragwi was conducting his business. Chiragwi was still a greenhorn and a novice in the coaching trenches and everyone expected him to throw in the towel.

But he didn’t. And Sweswe told him something that the youthful gaffer still vividly remembers.

“I have so much respect for Lizwe Sweswe. He was at FC Platinum some years back and I was coaching rivals Shabanie Mine.

“Things were very tough but as coaches, we always talk. So it just happened that one day, Sweswe took me aside after a match and he told me that if you remain determined, you will do very well and win the league title. I will remind you of this one day in the not-so-distant future,” said Chiragwi.

“I felt encouraged by those words and continued to work very hard. You know getting such words from someone who you have so much respect for, someone who you regard as an icon and a role model”.

Indeed, Sweswe, who is now with Sheasham reminded Chiragwi of those words on Wednesday when the pint-sized coach saw his Ngezi Platinum Stars move to within just three points of the league title with a 2-1 win over the Gweru team. Ngezi Platinum Stars could wrap up the title tomorrow if they beat Simba Bhora at Baobab regardless of what happens elsewhere. But they can still win the championship if they avoid defeat and second-placed Manica Diamonds fail to win their own game.

They can also win the title even if they lose to Simba Bhora and Manica Diamonds also lose theirs while Dynamos and FC Platinum who are third and fourth fail to register victories.

With three games still to be played, Ngezi Platinum Stars are virtually the champions- in-waiting barring any miracles, which, should they happen, should be of a gigantic and surreal nature.

“I am very disappointed after this defeat to Ngezi Platinum Stars. We are a team fighting against relegation and we deserved to come out with at least a point had we not made some costly mistakes at the back,” said Sweswe.

“We are going to fight until the end and I am very confident we will survive relegation. Yes, I told Chiragwi, I think in 2017 when he was at Shabanie Mine that in the near future you will win the league title if you remain focused.

“I was blown away by his work ethic and determination. He is a guy who is very eager to learn and he is excellent when it comes to tactics.

“I am not surprised by where he is now. He is almost there and my prediction could be fulfilled this season”. Ngezi Platinum have thrived on teamwork throughout the season but there are individuals who have been very instrumental in their bid for their maiden title.

Goalkeeper Nelson Chadya could as well be on his way to joining an exclusive company of three goalkeepers to have won the Soccer Star of the Year accolade.

So good has been the shot-stopper that his leadership capabilities in terms of communicating with his teammates has been one thing that has stood out from this team.

He has kept 16 clean sheets and has been by far the most outstanding player at the Mhondoro-based miners. Should he win the Soccer Star accolade, Chadya will join only three goalkeepers to have achieved the feat in history.

They include Japhet “Shot Cat”Mparutsa (1981), Energy Murambadoro (2003) and Washington Arubi (2011). He will however, face stiff competition from youngster Takunda Benhura who has scored 11 goals for Chiragwi charges while skipper Qadr Amini has also played influential roles. The same goes with defenders Kudzai Chigwida and Gareth Madhake who are the team’s unsung heroes.

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