Mukudzei Chingwere Sports Reporter
ZIMBABWE soccer kings FC Platinum will have to negotiate a difficult terrain in their bid to reach group stages of the CAF Champions League, with a potential re-match against Angolan giants Primeiro de Agosto in the first round.
According to a draw that was that was made public yesterday, the newly crowned Premiership champions will play Madagascar outfit CNaPS FC in the preliminary round.
Should the miners prevail, they will set up a date against the winner between the Primeiro Agosto and Congolese side A.S Otoho in the first round.
It is the Angolans, who reached the semi-finals only to be narrowly eliminated by Esperance, who pose the real threat to FC Platinum’s aspirations.
FC Platinum will travel away to Madagascar for the first leg at the Stade Municipal de Toamasina at the end of this month.
The reverse fixture will be played in Zimbabwe at the champions’ fortress Mandava during the week.
FC Platinum are aware that the Indian Ocean islanders have been regular campaigners in this tournament and cannot be easily written off.
Coach Norman Mapeza and his men, however, have their own ambitions of reaching the group stages of this competition and would want to use the preliminary stages to make known their statement of intent.
CNaPS have won the domestic top tier league in Madagascar a record five times on the bounce from 2013-2017.
But just like the Zimbabwean champions, the Malagasy side were also eliminated from the 2018 tournament at the first hurdle after falling to Ugandan champions KCCA on away goals rule.
FC Platinum go into this year’s edition with expectations high following a commanding display on the local scene where they stand on the verge of sealing a record 80-point victory.
Mapeza has kept faith in the squad that has dominated the local game and will now have their character put to the test on the continent.
That squad only had three additions — Ian Nekati, Lameck Nhamo and Rainsome Pavari.
FC Platinum have been gaining some continental experience over the years and have featured twice in the Champions League as well as the Confederation Cup.
But a place beyond the preliminary stages has remained elusive.
Club chairman Evans Mutombeni said they could not have asked for a better draw and also dismissed rumours that Mapeza might be leaving at the end of the season.
“We are very happy the draw is now out. There was a lot of anxiety before it was conducted and in terms of cost, we are delighted that we will face the team from our region.
“We cannot ask for more than that and if we win the first game, we will play Agosto again if they beat the team from Congo.
“The experience we had playing them early this year and watching them play in the Champions’ League I think will help us if we play them again.
“Then there is the speculation that Mapeza will be leaving the club, it is not true. He is actually busy preparing for the Champions League. As FC Platinum, there is no way we would want a coach who has just won the league with us to leave.
“We want him to stay and we will give him all the support in the Champions League as has always been the case,” said Mutombeni.