FC Platinum plunge into the biggest match in their history today when they host South African giants Orlando Pirates at Barbourfields in a CAF Champions League Group B showdown likely to illuminate the City of Kings. It’s a measure of how far the Zvishavane miners have come, in a stunning transformation that has seen them turn from a Division One side, just nine years ago, into the dominant football force on the domestic scene in the last two years.
Their critics have been quick to suggest that they are just mere beneficiaries of the riches, from their platinum base, which have seen them attract some of the best players and coaching brains on the domestic scene and the bubble will burst sooner rather than later.
However, we tend to disagree with such a view because, as has been shown now and again in this game, having the financial muscle doesn’t always translate into success on the field.
What is needed, and what those who are in charge of FC Platinum have shown us, is sound leadership, the ability to plan accordingly and provide a conducive atmosphere where their football franchise can thrive and the results have been there for everyone to see.
The club’s management, to their credit, have chosen not to fall into the trap of interfering in the affairs of the coaching department, giving Norman Mapeza and his backroom staff the freedom to execute their duties freely, and this has created a professional and thriving set-up at the club.
Rather than just depend on the cash handouts, which they used to get from their parent company Mimosa Mines, we have seen the leaders of FC Platinum starting a number of business ventures which have given the football club the financial backing to now stand on its own.
You could tell from the very beginning, when they came into the domestic Premiership, that they intended to do things in a different way.
The way they invested a considerable fortune to convert Mandava Stadium from an ordinary football ground, into one of the best in the country, spoke volumes about their vision from the word go.
It’s a shame they could not host their biggest game, in their history, in their home stadium because the CAF leaders somehow — against credible evidence and reason — said Mandava Stadium did not have the requisite media facilities for such a huge game.
But, despite being handed what is clearly a raw deal, given that we have seen a number of other worse stadiums across Africa being given the rights to host such matches, we urge FC Platinum not to be distracted by all what has happened in the last few days.
After all, having played a number of matches at Barbourfields in Bulawayo, they know this stadium far better than Orlando Pirates and, ironically, FC Platinum have always seemed to do very well every time they have played there.
What is at stake here is the profile of our club football, given that our teams have, in the past few years, struggled to do well in the Champions League, with many of them being knocked out in the early rounds.
This has seen us losing the privilege that we used to have, when Dynamos were doing very well in the Champions League and reaching the final and semi-final of the tournament, with CAF handing us extra slots in their inter-club tournaments because of those success stories.
This meant we could field four teams, two in the Champions League and two in the Confederation Cup, but now we are back to just fielding one team in each competition.
The challenge is for FC Platinum to start that journey, now that they have gone as far as reaching the group stages of the Champions League, to take us back where we believe we belong. That is, one of those countries with extra slots in the tournaments.
A victory over Orlando Pirates, one of the real giants of African football, will send just the right statement across the continent that FC Platinum are not in their group just to make up the numbers.
It will also deliver the message that domestic league football, which the platinum miners are representing, is in good health despite having to deal with regular losses of its star players to South Africa.
FC Platinum should not be left to walk alone in this battle, because they are flying our flag, and they deserve the support of every Zimbabwean as they try to beat this Goliath that has come to town with a pedigree that can frighten most of the clubs on the continent.
Fans should come in full force and ensure FC Platinum feel the love and, in football, that can make a huge difference and that is why home teams have always been difficult to beat, especially with their supporters in full cry behind their cause.