'Bring them on'

HARARE - FC Platinum coach believes his side was handed a fair draw for the group stages of the African Champions League on Friday night.

The Zimbabwe champions were placed in Group B which features defending African champions Esperance of Tunisia, South African giants Orlando Pirates and Guinea’s Horoya AC.

Pure Platinum Play became the fourth Zimbabwean team to progress to the group stages of the continent’s premier inter-club competition after Dynamos, CAPS United and the now-defunct Monomotapa.

Mapeza’s side dispatched Malagasy side CNaPS Sport in the preliminary round before overcoming Congolese champions AS Otoho on away goals rule in the final qualifying round.

The Zvishavane-based miners will now host some of Africa’s royalty when the group stages commence in two weeks’ time.

FC Platinum get the ball rolling with a home match on January 11th against one-time African champions Orlando Pirates, who are on a quest to add a second star on their jersey by going all the way this time around.

Mapeza is fully aware of the demands needed to succeed on the continent especially when it comes to the group stages where matches come in thick and fast against some quality opposition.       

“It’s a good draw; we just need to work hard and not put ourselves under pressure,” he told the Daily News.

“By now, we have learnt a lot from the qualifying games we have played so far. You cannot expect any easy match at this stage.”

In the qualifying rounds, Pure Platinum Play had to dig deep starting with the ties against CNaPS when they earned a favourable 1-1 away draw in Antananarivo while playing on artificial turf.

It’s not always easy to play on synthetic surfaces but the platinum miners held their own with midfielder Farai Madhananga scoring the all-import away goal.

In the second leg, FC Platinum won the game 1-0 courtesy of Rodwell Chinyengetere’s strike at Mandava Stadium.     

The first leg tie against Otoho was complicated by the long journey to Owando and some biased officiating by the Togolese match officials.

Despite all that, the Zimbabwean champions emerged with a precious 1-1 draw at the Stade Omnisport Marien Ngouabi d’Owando with defender William Stima scoring the away goal.

The second leg finished goalless at Mandava which saw FC Platinum book their place in the group stages at the third attempt.    

“What is important is for us to take it one game at a time and see how far we can progress. We don’t want to put ourselves under too much pressure,” Mapeza said.

“It’s the first time we are playing at this stage and while we are still learning we also want to do well.”

Meanwhile, FC Platinum spokesperson Chido Chizondo has dispelled speculation going around that the club is considering shifting their game against Pirates to Bulawayo’s Barbourfields Stadium.

The Sea Robbers have a huge following in Bulawayo and it is believed the club was considering using Barbourfields to attract a capacity crowd.

“That is not something which our executive is considering at all. We will not abandon our Zvishavane community and fans,” Chizondo said.  


FIXTURES

11 Jan: FC Platinum v Orlando Pirates
18 Jan: Esperance v FC Platinum
1 Feb: FC Platinum v Horoya
12 Feb: Horoya v FC Platinum
8 Mar: Orlando Pirates v Platinum
15 Mar: FC Platinum v Esperance  

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