Mukudzei Chingwere Sports Reporter
FC PLATINUM coach Norman Mapeza has made a bold decision to exclude regular defensive linkman Winston Mhango from the 20-man travelling squad for the CAF Champions League first round, first leg tie against Congolese side Association Sportive Otho D’oyo.
The Zimbabwean champions play the first leg away in Congo on Sunday and were expected to fly out of the country early this morning at 2am for a date against the tournament’s surprise packages.
Mhango has over the years provided an important midfield shield for the miners, laying the foundation for coach Mapeza’s preferred free-flowing football.
His exploits in central midfield did not go unnoticed either, amid strong indications that he has attracted interest from a number of foreign clubs.
Mapeza, however, made a bold statement that places in his squad can only be earned at training and not on reputation alone by naming new signing Rainsome Pavari in his travelling squad at the expense of Mhango.
Midfield workhorse Farai Madhanaga, Kelvin Madzongwe and Devon Chafa are some of the defensive midfield options included in the miners team.
Soccer Star of the Year award winner Rodwell Chinyengetere is also in the squad and will get support from runner-up Lameck Nhamo who made it into the travelling team.
There was no place for second runner-up Kevin Moyo who is yet to fully recover from an injury sustained while playing the Castle Challenge Cup against Triangle United.
FC Platinum’s technical department is likely not going to have any worries in covering for Moyo’s absence, as the trio of Lawrence Mhlanga, William Stima and Gift Bello are in the squad and they have been impressive of late.
Veteran forward Charles Sibanda, the only surviving member of their 2012 CAF Champions League squad, has been frozen for sometime but Mapeza and his lieutenants have included him in the team that will play the first leg.
There is no place again for hitherto first choice goalkeeper Wallace Magalane who has just recovered from a shoulder injury and captain Petros Mhari will get cover from Francis Tizayi to guard the goal area.
Versatile defender Ian Nekati remains conspicuous by his absence from the Pure Platinum Play training base amid concerns that his switch from ZPC Kariba has faced some complications. Club media liaison officer Chido Chizondo confirmed the itinerary of the team for their African Safari showdown.
“The team is leaving on Thursday (today) at 2am with a squad of 20 players for the first round of the CAF Champions League,” said Chizondo.
FC Platinum have made a group stage appearance berth as the minimum target for this edition of the African Safari after they were eliminated at the first hurdle the last time-out.
Now they have a very simple hurdle to deal with before the mini-league phase after they were drawn against tournament debutants Otoho in the last round of the qualifying phases.
Mapeza bemoaned the lack of Champions League experience for his men the last time out but against a team that has never played in Africa’s premier club competition before, the miners are favourites and if they win this fixture they are in the group stages.
FC Platinum Travelling Squad
Petros Mhari, Francis Tizayi, Gift Bello, Lawrence Mhlanga, Elvis Moyo, William Stima, Raphael Muduviwa, Rodwell Chinyengetere, Farai Madhanaga, Devon Chafa, Kelvin Madzongwe, Rainsome Pavari, Never Tigere, Marshal Mudehwe, Charles Sibanda, Lameck Nhamo, Gift Mbweti, Albert Eonde, Mkhokheli Dube, Thomas Chideu