Mapeza looks ahead

GWERU - FC Platinum are gearing up for a tough 2019 campaign after they successfully negotiated their way through to the group stages of the African Champions League at the weekend.

Norman Mapeza’s side made history by booking their place among the best 16 teams on the continent on the third attempt when they overcame Congolese side AS Otoho in the final qualifying round of the competition.

The Zvishavane-based miners started their season early in January as they needed to take part in the qualifiers for the last edition of the Champions League.

Since then they have been on the go as they successfully defended their Castle Lager Premiership title. In early December, without having any rest, the club resumed their 2018-19 African Champions League quest which culminated in their qualification for the group stages at the weekend.

Mapeza’s side will now go into Friday’s draw to be held in Cairo, Egypt fully aware they have little time to recuperate as the group stage matches are scheduled to commence on January 11.

The fatigue on the FC Platinum players was clearly telling in the second half as they began sitting deep in order to protect their away goal scored by defender William Stima in the first leg in Owando a week earlier.

Mapeza got his tactics spot-on in the second leg at Mandava Stadium on Saturday as his side managed to shut out the Congolese champions for a goalless draw.

With a goalless draw enough to carry Pure Platinum Play into the group stages, Mapeza started the game with a centre back pairing of Lawrence Mhlanga and William Stima 
in order to cope with the physicality of visitors.

Elvis Moyo and Raphael Mudhuviwa were employed on either wing backs while Kelvin Madzongwe and Devon Chafa providing cover for the defence in central midfield.

Farai Madhananga and Gift Mbweti were given the creative responsibility on the flanks while the outgoing Rodwell Chinyengetere partnered new boy Lameck Nhamo upfront.

Mapeza knows that reaching the group stages of the African Champions will bring more matches for his side but they are prepared to go through the pain barrier.

“We knew what was going to happen when Caf said they were going to change the season, some African leagues are also changing their seasons so we knew what we were up against,” Mapeza said.

“As it stands, we will start our league games here and still be playing in the Champions League so that’s the price that comes with success.”

The Premier Soccer League (PSL) had proposed to also change the Zimbabwe season to August-May but it was shot down at the Zifa Annual general Meeting a week ago.

The 2019 domestic season will resume in March when FC Platinum will be concluding their Champions League group matches.

“When we talk of changing the calendar, we have to look at our climate in Zimbabwe; does our climate allow us to play football in December? No it doesn’t, we don’t have the stadia. What will happen when it starts raining?” Mapeza said.

Meanwhile, new Zifa president Felton Kamambo yesterday congratulated FC Platinum for becoming only the fourth Zimbabwean team to reach the group stages of the African Champions League after Dynamos, CAPS United and the now defunct Monomotapa.

“The club’s success is testimony of persistence and hard work needed to put our football on the map,” Kamambo said.

“Victories over CNaPS Sport and AS Otoho are a mark of progression from previous attempts, and that is a shot in the arm for Zimbabwean football.

“We wish the Zimbabwean champions all the best as they undertake their new challenge. We are confident they will continue to excel because they earned their place.”  


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