Mukudzei Chingwere in Gweru and Skhumbuzo Moyo in Brazzaville, Congo
FC PLATINUM coach Norman Mapeza’s tactical wits come under the sternest of scrutiny despite being presented with a golden opportunity to qualify for the CAF Champions League group stages when his charges clash against tournament minnows AS Otoho in the first round, first leg in Congo tomorrow afternoon.
The Zvishavane miners take on AS Otoho in Owando, 460km from Brazzaville.
FC Platinum dominated the local scene for two years and they are now bidding to prove themselves in Africa.
After evading the traditional giants of African football like North African teams from the preliminary round, they know they will not get a better route to the mini-league phase than the one against AS Otoho in this first round tie.
Mapeza has been quietly doing his job, but deep down he is aware that he cannot afford to spurn the chance of making a mark on the continent given the favourable sequence of opponents.
The uninitiated will be tempted to think the miners are going to endure a torrid afternoon against a team that eliminated last season’s semi-finalists Primiero Agosto in the preliminary round, but in reality David cannot slay Goliath everyday and Pure Platinum Play need to be stimulated by that.
CAPS United coach Lloyd Chitembwe and his men made it to the mini-league phase at the expense of TP Mazembe in 2017, and the Makepekepe gaffer has tipped FC Platinum to emulate their success, but was quick to plead to stakeholders not to give the Zimbabwean representatives pressure.
“I am happy they are doing well up to this stage and I only wish they can proceed up to the group stages.
“But all the same I do not think there is need for us to put pressure on them, let us just give them the leverage to enjoy the opportunity to perform well without giving them much pressure.
“Sometimes (in this competition) it is not about individual quality it is about the right team and I am sure they have that, they could not have achieved what they achieved without those qualities.
“Above all I think they have what it takes to go through to the group stages of the Champions League,” said Chitembwe.
Against a team that conceded nine goals in the reverse leg of an African Safari tie early this year against USM Alger, Mapeza will be fancying the opportunity to run over the Congolese side and progress to the group stages.
FC Platinum yesterday held a one-and-a-half-hour training session at the artificial Complexe Sportif Alphonse Massamba Debat turf where coach Mapeza seemed to emphasise on close ball control and mental concentration.
The players were also taken through a normal game situation which again was high tempo.
Despite the ill-treatment that the team went through upon arrival on Thursday, FC Platinum seemed undeterred amid indications that the hosts’ actions actually has hardened their resolve to grind a result tomorrow.
Speaking after the session, captain and goalkeeper Petros Mhari said they were confident of getting the needed result tomorrow.
“We are here for football and we remain confident that we will be able to able to grind a result, if we get at least a draw here like we did in Madagascar and then finish them off at home the better,” said Mhari.
The weather continues to be a huge worry for the Zimbabweans with temperatures as high as 25 degrees by 6am.
“It’s humid and very unfriendly in terms of the weather but we will overcome,” said Mhari.
FC Platinum were scheduled to fly out of Brazzaville to Owando yesterday afternoon.
The Zvishavane miners were subjected to a poor reception by their hosts upon arrival in Brazzaville on Thursday.
But given that the reverse fixture will be played at their fortress at Mandava in a week’s time, FC Platinum need to put this into their stride and move on.