Mukudzei Chingwere Sports Reporter
FC Platinum have said the underlying principles behind the formation of the club would have been violated if the Confederation of Africa Football bar them from hosting their Champions League group matches at their home ground at Mandava.
Zimbabwe’s representatives in the Champions League were drawn in the same pool with defending champions Esperance of Tunisia, South African giants Orlando Pirates and Horoya AC of Guinea in Group B.
However, they might be asked to shift base to an alternative venue in Bulawayo or Harare, with concerns being raised over their fortress’ eligibility to host high-profile international matches.
The miners have invested a fortune in renovations at the venue, changing it from a ground suitable for lower league matches to one of the best stadiums in the country.
But there are concerns over the lighting at the stadium, with some matches set for the night, while CAF have also raised the red flag over Mandava’s media facilities given the group matches have to cater for more than 50 journalists.
But this has sparked furious responses from the club’s fans and hundreds of local football supporters who feel this is another CAF ploy to place a Zimbabwean club at a disadvantage.
Questions have been asked as to how CAF have allowed Champions League group matches to be played at the Roumde Adija Stadium in Garoua, Cameroon, whose facilities can barely be compared to those at Mandava.
The stadium even hosted one leg of the Champions League final in 2008 when local club Cotonsport Garoua took on Egyptian powerhouse Al Ahly.
FC Platinum officials say their club was created primarily as a social corporate responsibility for Zvishavane and the surrounding communities to benefit from having a top local team.
Since their elevation into the elite division, they have written some success stories like winning the league’s ultimate prize on two occasions, becoming the first team from outside Harare and Bulawayo to win the title in over half a century. This time they are now in Africa’s premier club competition group stages and have been hoping to bring the excitement of hosting international stars in the small mining town.
“The purpose of the project in the first place was to put Zvishavane and the surrounding communities on the map by bringing top international football to the town,” the club said in a statement yesterday.
“Now we have qualified for the group stages and we will be hosting African football giants, it has always been our wish to host these games in Zvishavane for the benefit of the community.
“But if we are not going to play the matches in Zvishavane we feel it will be defeating the whole process for the very formation of this club which is to benefit the local community.
“The club has not received anything official regarding the venue switch but it is our hope we will be able to play these matches in Zvishavane.
“As a club we have very good memories at Mandava as part of our objectives to be a leading African brand on the continent we hope to continue building these success stories at the venue.
“Everything we do resonate with the community of Zvishavane.”
Meanwhile, coach Norman Mapeza and his men are expected to regroup tomorrow to start preparations for the mini league.
They start their group stages matches with a home date against Orlando Pirates on January 12, at the venue yet to be advised.
Thousands of South African fans of the Soweto giants are expected in the country for the big match.
“The team will start training on January 2 (tomorrow), in preparations for the Champions’ league group stage matches,” said club spokesperson Chido Chizondo.