Which team will rise to wrestle FC Platinum?

HARARE - FC Platinum have bossed the domestic league for the past two seasons in which they have won back-to-back Castle Lager Premiership titles.

Norman Mapeza’s men have simply been irresistible with their passing game which has won them many neutrals.

Since coming into the top flight league in 2011, Pure Platinum Play finally got their hands on the elusive title in 2017 when they had a memorable second half of the season run before eventually landing the championship, finishing two points ahead of Dynamos.

This was the first time a team outside of Harare or Bulawayo had ever won the league title since the establishment of the Premier Soccer League in 1992. 

In 2018, they did not relent as they successfully defended their title to become the first side to achieve such a feat since the all-conquering Dynamos of 2011 to 2014.

By the time the league reached the halfway stage, it was a foregone conclusion that Pure Platinum Play would be crowned champions.

The Zvishavane-based side had assumed top spot on the log in Week 16 when they beat Ngezi Platinum at Baobab Stadium.

From there on, their lead never looked in danger as they went on to win the title with a massive 13 points cushion above Ngezi Platinum.

One game that best sums up the gap between Pure Platinum Play and the rest of the league was when they rolled into Rufaro Stadium and beat DeMbare 0-2 back in May.

Dynamos supporters gave the platinum miners a standing ovation after their team had spent the better part of the afternoon chasing shadows.

With precise passing and good ball retention from the visitors, DeMbare looked a social club as they failed to get hold of the possession for prolonged periods.

Due to their participation in the African Champions League, Mapeza was forced to go into the transfer market early.

It looks like the club recruited well as they managed to snap up Triangle United’s forward Lameck Nhamo and Bulawayo City’s holding midfielder Rainsome Pavari.

As a result, Pure Platinum Play were able to lift the monkey off their back when they punched the ticket to reach the group stages of the African Champions League for 
the first time in the club’s history.

This coming weekend, Mapeza’s men will begin their Group B campaign with a home tie against South African giants Orlando Pirates at Barbourfields Stadium.

With the domestic transfer window still active, there is still more room for FC Platinum to add to their squad ahead of the 2019 Castle Lager Premiership season.

This means they will be the bookmakers’ favourites to win the title again this year unless some of the teams step up to the plate and show that they can be the “anti-FC Platinum” this season.  

There are a number of teams this coming season that might have the right squad to try and knock FC Platinum off their perch.

Chicken Inn are looking solid after Joey Antipas did well during the transfer window.

The Gamecocks, who finished in third place last year – some 21 points behind FC Platinum – have already signed striker Clive Augusto from Ngezi Platinum and midfielder Sipho Ndlovu.

Winger Panashe Mutasa has also joined from Dynamos as Antipas has acted swiftly to strengthen a squad that was considerably strong already.

With the way they played last season, the Gamecocks just need a bit of consistency this term to close the gap on FC Platinum.

At the start of last season, Ngezi Platinum was the team best equipped to take on Pure Platinum Play and it looked like everything was going according to script.

Tonderai Ndiraya’s team started the campaign very well as they went unbeaten in the first 14 games but everything started to unravel when they lost to newcomers Bulawayo Chiefs.

From there on, Madamburo went on a free fall which eventually cost Ndiraya his job with five games to go.

Ngezi Platinum have appointed former Highlanders coach Erol Akbay to take charge this season but the Dutchman has inherited a much lesser strong squad.

Augusto has already left to join Chicken Inn while midfielder Walter Mukanga was snapped up by Harare City.

A host of other players are agitating for moves away from Baobab Stadium which will make Akbay’s job difficult of trying to upstage FC Platinum.  

Triangle United had a memorable 2018 season in which they finished in fourth place and also won the Chibuku Super Cup.

The Sugar Sugar Boys have already lost two of their best players from last season — striker Lameck Nhamo and winger Phenias Bamusi — who joined FC Platinum and CAPS United respectively.

If they had held onto the duo, Taurai Mangwiro’s side would have had a good shot at become the perfect anti- FC Platinum team but as things stand, repeating that 2018 form would be a big ask.

Traditional giants Dynamos, CAPS United and Highlanders were all poor last season as they never got anywhere near the title race.

With the way they are performing in the transfer window, it looks like nothing much will change in the 2019 season.

DeMbare survived relegation with only three weeks to go and are now in a major rebuilding exercise and will need time to get back to their best levels.

Makepekepe will also have a virtually new team this year after showing the exit door to a number of their seasoned stars which also makes it a difficult task of 
challenging FC Platinum.

The acrimonious exit of chief executive Cuthbert Chitima has also weakened their good start in the transfer market where the former Gunners boss had made some headway.

Bosso have already lost winger Gabriel Nyoni to CAPS United and defender Peter Muduhwa is also on his way out which means Madinda Ndlovu’s squad is left with little experience.  

This leaves FC Platinum with very little to worry about in their attempt to make it three league titles in a row.

The only biggest threat Mapeza’s team faces is that of fatigue as they have been playing football since January last year and have had little rest due to their participation in the African Champions League, but with a fat wallet, it will be no surprise if Mapeza decides to add some few more faces to his squad.

In the event that tiredness creeps into the Pure Platinum Play squad, it looks like Chicken Inn and Triangle can become the anti-FC Platinum sides this coming 2019 season.

If that does not happen, it will be another slow march towards the Zvishavane-based side’s coronation later on in December. 


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