Augustine Hwata Sports Reporter—
FC Platinum coaches have been handed an easy task in their maiden dance with the Caf Confederation Cup after being drawn against Kenya’s Sofapaka, but coach Norman Mapeza insists they still have to tread with caution. According to the draw conducted at the Confederation of African Football headquarters in Cairo, Egypt, yesterday, the East Africans will be at home in the preliminary round first leg match set for the weekend of February 13-15, before FC Platinum host the reverse fixture on February 27-28.
Although they are not new to the African safari, having played in the Champions League in 2012, FC Platinum will be playing in the continent’s second tier inter-club competition for the first time.
Mapeza’s men won the right to represent Zimbabwe in the Confederation Cup after winning the Chibuku Super Cup via a penalty shoot-out over Harare City at Mandava.
With Dynamos having pulled out of the Champions League after winning a fourth successive Premiership title, FC Platinum will be Zimbabwe’s sole representatives in the Caf competitions.
Sofapaka secured their passage into the Confederation Cup after winning the premier GoTv Knock-out Cup.
In the league, they finished runners-up behind giants and perennial campaigners Gor Mahia, who will be representing Kenya in the Champions League.
Unlike Dynamos who are ranked in the top 10 and would have been given a bye into the first round, FC Platinum will have to start their campaign at the preliminary round stage.
Mapeza, a former Warriors coach, however, chose to be cautious in his reaction to the draw, arguing that the miners would have to tread carefully when they plunge into battle in February.
The FC Platinum coach yesterday said he did know much about their preliminary round opponents but believes Sofapaka “deserve to be treated with respect, like any opponent in football”.
“We do not know much about them although I have watched some of their matches on GoTV. I think they are one of the top teams in Kenya along with Gor Mahia and AFC Leopards.
“So to me they are one of the best clubs in Kenya,” said Mapeza.
In November 2011, Mapeza took the Warriors to Kenya for the Cecafa Cup and that could also have helped him get an idea of Kenyan football.
Should they negotiate their way past the Kenyans, FC Platinum will face the winner between Botswana Defence Forces and Young Africans of Tanzania in the first round.
However, crack Tunisian outfit Etoile du Sahel, who have previously won both the Champions League and the Confederation Cup, will be waiting in ambush should FC Platinum continue to advance in this competition.
The Zvishavane side’s players are currently on a break after a strong finish in the league where they ended in fourth place, but Mapeza had been busy attending the Caf A-Licence course whose first module ended at the Zifa Village yesterday.
Mapeza said their preparations for the Confederation Cup could move a gear up during the African Cup of Nations finals in Equatorial Guinea.
“There is going to be the African Nations finals in January and that means our matches are starting in February. So roughly we could be starting preparations around 10 January, but we have to confirm with the club,” said Ma- peza.
Sofapaka, who are based in Nairobi, finished second in the 2014 Kenya Premier League on 57 points, three behind winners Gor Mahia.
They won 16 and drew nine of their 30 league matches where they also won the premier GoTv Championship knock-out.
Sofapaka won the Kenyan Premiership once in 2009, while Gor Mahia have 14 titles to their name with AFC Leopards on 12.
The East Africans played in the Champions League once in 2010 where they lost to Ismaily of Egypt in the preliminary round and they were disqualified from the 2008 Confederation Cup while in 2011 they got their revenge on the Egyptians.
“Children of God,” as Sofapaka are known to their fans, beat Ismaily in the Confederation Cup second round before losing to Club African of Tunisia who had been relegated from the Champions League.
But while Zimbabwe will not be having a representative in the Champions League after Dynamos pulled out because of limited finances, a number of Zimbabweans will still be involved in this prestigious competition.
From South African, Kaizer Chiefs will play Township Rollers of Botswana who are under the guidance of Madinda Ndlovu, while Mamelodi Sundowns meet St Michel of Seychelles.
Chiefs are home to Kingstone Nkhata, Ovidy Karuru, Willard Katsande and Matthew Rusike while Sundowns have Cuthbert Malajila, Khama Billiat, Kuda Mahachi and Esrom Nyandoro.
Veteran striker Edward Sadomba will also be in action for his Libyan side Al Ahly Tripoli when they meet Smoah of Egypt while Onismor Bhasera’s Bidvest Wits will feature in the Confederation Cup where they will date Royal Leopards Swaziland.
Caf Confederation Cup Draw:
Sofapaka (Kenya) v FC Platinum (Zim)
Bidvest Wits vs Royal Leopards (SWA)
Young Africans vs BDF XI (BOT)
Benfica de Luanda vs Messager Ngozi (BUR)
Volcan Club de Moroni (COM) vs Atletico Petroleos (ANG)
Petite Riviere Noire (MRI) vs Ferroviario da Beira (MOZ)
MC Alger vs Sahel SC (NIG)
RSB (MOR) vs Onze Createurs (MLI)
Al Ittihad (LBY) vs Elect Sport (CHA)
Ghazala (SSD) vs Petrojet
Unisport du Haut Nkam (CMR) vs Olympique de Ngor (SEN)
Hearts of Oak vs AS Police (BEN)
ASO Chlef vs Kamboi Eagles (SLE)
Horoya AC vs Fassel (LBR)
Leones Vegetarianos (EQG) v Dolphins (NGA)
Cote d’’Or (SEY) vs Dedebit
RCB (BFA) vs Warri Wolves (NGA)
Etoile du Congo (CGO) vs FC MK (DRC)
Panthere du NDE (CMR) vs Rayon Sports (RWA)
AS Togo Port de Lome (TOG) vs CARA (CGO)
Khartoum (SUD) vs Power Dynamos (ZAMBIA)