Mapeza’s troops gear up for Sofapaka test

Norman Mapeza is looking forward to his African safari debut as a coach when he leads his FC Platinum troops in the preliminary round first leg clash against Kenyan giants Sofapaka next week.

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FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza

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The former Monomotapa and Warriors gaffer, who missed out on continental football when he left the former after leading them to the league championship in 2008, will finally get his chance to test himself in the jungles of Africa and is leaving no stone unturned to ensure his charges are ready for the big test in Nairobi.

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This weekend, Mapeza will continue to fine tune his team for the rigours of continental football with a friendly match against Highlanders as he seeks to make an immediate impact in the Confederation Cup.

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Incidentally, FC Platinum will be making their second appearance in a continental club competition, the Zvishavane-based side having made their bow in the 2012 Caf Champions League where they were knocked out by Sudan’s El-Merreikh in the first round.

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And after leading the club to a surprise fourth-place finish in the league and victory in the Chibuku Super Cup last season, Mapeza has reinforced his squad with a number of new signings, among them Wellington Kamudyariwa, Brian Muzondiwa and Emmanuel Mandiranga, who are expected to add depth to a side that is a mix of experience and youth.

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Seasoned players such as Daniel Veremu, Thabani Kamusoko and Gift Bello are expected to blend their experience with the enthusiasm of youthful stars such as highly rated midfielder Wisdom Mutasa, Walter Musona, Tatenda Dzumbunu and the skilful Muzondiwa.

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This weekend’s high profile friendly against a rebuilding Bosso will also be Pure Platinum Play’s first preparatory match under the watchful eye of Mapeza, who was not at Mandava Stadium last week when his charges beat Bantu Rovers 2-0 as he was in Harare attending a CAF A licencing course.

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When The Zimbabwe Mail visited Mandava Stadium in the last four days, hard work and unity of purpose were the watchword with lots of emphasis on ball retention and possession during the training sessions.

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The FC Platinum faithful also seemed to be at one with the team, giving them full support, with a number of them also set to accompany the team on their trip to east Africa.

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Mapeza believes the weekend game against Highlanders will help him assess the readiness of his team in a competitive set up.

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“The guys have been putting in enormous amount of work at training and the Bosso game now gives us a chance as the technical team to assess where we stand as a team in a game situation,” said Mapeza.

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The former Warriors skipper also expressed his delight at the way his new recruits, midfielder Kamudyariwa who signed from Shabanie, Muzondiwa who was acquired from Black Rhinos and striker Mandiranga who joined  from How Mine, are adapting to life at FC Platinum.

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“The new signings have added depth, competition and cutting edge .The passion and commitment from these lads has been excellent and hopefully they will carry that in a game situation,” said Mapeza, who insists the result of the match against Highlanders will have no effect on the team’s confidence.

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“It is  a pre-season game and results don’t really count. The focus will be on technical aptitude, combinations and application in the game. After all, this is our last preparatory match before we leave for Kenya where we will clash against Sofapaka,” he added.

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FC Platinum and Sofapaka face off in the first leg in Nairobi on February 13-15, before meeting in the second leg two weeks later.

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The winner of the first leg tie takes on the winner of the preliminary round tie pitting Tanzania’s Young Africans against Botswana Defence Forces in the first round.

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FC Platinum’s Confederation Cup squad:

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Goalkeepers: Petros Mhari, Francis Tizayi

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Defenders: Daniel Veremu, Rapheal Muduviwa, Aaron Katebe, Gift Bello, Ian Nekati, Kevin Moyo, Elvis Moyo

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Midfielders: Simon Shoko, Tatenda Dzumbunu, Wisdom Mutasa, Raymond Sibanda, Thabani Kamusoko, Walter Musona, Brian Muzondiwa, Allen Gahadzikwa, Marshall Mudehwe, Wellington Kamudyairwa

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Strikers: Obrey Chirwa, Donald Ngoma, Nelson Maziwisa, Nigel Papias, Emmanuel Mandiranga

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