IT’S NOW SWIM OR SINK
Mukudzei Chingwere Midlands Bureau—
AFTER coming close on a number of occasions, FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza believes this could be the year his troops finally end their bridesmaid tag by making history as the first club from outside Harare and Bulawayo to win the league title in more than half-a-century. The Zvishavane miners have fate in their hands as three wins, in their last three matches, will see them being crowned champions irrespective of what happens elsewhere among the other clubs competing for honours.
FC Platinum are in second place, because of an inferior goal difference to leaders Ngezi Platinum, with the two sister clubs having the same number of points (63), and in pole position to be crowned champions in the final three matches of the season. Serial champions Dynamos are also in the hunt and, like vultures, are waiting for the leading duo to lose their way, praying that the pressure needed to manage this crucial phase will be too much to bear for the two teams that have never been crowned champions in the past.
Recent history has been kind to the Glamour Boys with ZPC Kariba collapsing on the final day of the season and handing the league title to DeMbare while Harare City also failed to manage the weight of expectations on the final day and DeMbare sneaked in to win the race.
FC Platinum, themselves, have experienced such pain in the past after they also failed to manage expectations in the penultimate round of fixtures in Week 29 of the 2011 championship race when they failed to, at least, force a draw at Mandava against DeMbare and saw the Glamour Boys win that match and, ultimately, the championship.
Mapeza believes that will not happen this year and takes his men to Bulawayo today, the city where the Glamour Boys are also in today for a date against Bulawayo City at Barbourfields, needing a victory against relegated Tsholotsho at Luveve to keep alive their campaign for honours. Leaders Ngezi Platinum have a blockbuster showdown against Chicken Inn at Baobab this afternoon.
The former Warriors skipper and coach, who won the league championship with Monomotapa in 2008, believes this could be the landmark year in which his miners from Zvishavane, who have been runners-up on a number of occasions, could be crowned league champions.
Mapeza told The Herald yesterday that it was only fair that, given the way FC Platinum have performed in the past half-a-dozen years, his side should be crowned champions this season. “Our approach has been the same in our previous campaigns, sometimes you need luck to achieve in your goals in this industry,’’ he said.
“The mission is always the same — it is about winning the league. Maybe, the difference was that at Monoz it was about finishing on a respectable position than winning the league. There is so much quality in the team, even last season (it) was the same. Like I said before sometimes you need that luck in this industry to achieve your goals. The players have shown so much commitment, the desire to win and push for the championship, the strong mentality, the hunger to overcome all obstacles and to become champion.’’
FC Platinum have what looks like a winnable fixture against relegated Tsholotsho but Mapeza has insisted that they will take the match seriously because their opponents’ relegation, in the last round of fixtures, hasn’t turned them into easy prey. Mapeza will be buoyed by the fact that FC Platinum has never lost to Tsholotsho in a league match, boasting an impressive four wins and one draw against them.
Should both the two platinum miners win today, that will set the stage for an explosive showdown between the two sides at Mandava on Saturday. The Glamour Boys are also watching from a distance, convinced the two leaders will not have it their way in the final three matches and fate, once again, will smile for them with coach Lloyd Mutasa, who has been praised for the way he assembled a team from scratch into one that has competed well for the league championship, also hoping that his prayers will be answered.
Mutasa, a devout Christian, has refused to throw in the towel, even when it looks like his men will need a miracle for them to be crowned champions this year. The DeMbare leadership also appeared to suggest that Mutasa’s job will be secure for next season irrespective of what happens in this championship race. Dynamos secretary-general Webster Marechera appeared to provide that lead when he revealed they had pardoned bad boy Denver Mukamba but defender Lincoln Zvasiya had been given the freedom to leave the club.
‘’The decisions that we took were done in consultation with the head coach and in any case he was the one who had brought the matter to our attention when he said he didn’t want to see the two players anywhere near the training ground,’’ said Marechera.
‘’The head coach said he did not have Zvasiya in his plans at all for next season.’’ CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe, who guided the Green Machine to their first league championship in more than a decade last year, has already anointed FC Platinum as the champions in this year’s championship race.
A Harare business executive, Spencer Manguwa, who had analysed international football on ZTV, also came up with a formula which suggested that FC Platinum will be crowned champions this year. Manguwa, who is a Dynamos and Liverpool fan, made his prediction with seven games left in the season and, so far, four of the results he predicted for FC Platinum have come true.