THE roller coaster ride of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title race is poised to finally come to an end tomorrow when relegated Shabanie Mine host FC Platinum in the Zvishavane derby.
BY TERRY MADYAUTA
FC Platinum are one point away and seemingly out of Ngezi Platinum Stars’ reach and they will want to officially end any interest that their fellow platinum miners have in the title and the grand occasion provided for by the Zvishavane derby is probably the best platform they would have wished for.
If FC Platinum lose tomorrow, it means that when they take on Ngezi Platinum Stars in the next league match, the latter will have illuminated their flickering light for the title and Norman Mapeza (pictured) will want to avoid such risks.
Business will have to be concluded at Maglas Stadium tomorrow and the celebrations are set to explode in the mining town.
A lot has happened this season that has seen a see-saw affair in the race for the title, where the two platinum miners have made it a straight fight between themselves.
At some point, Ngezi were in a strong position and they would cede top spot to their rivals, regain it and relinquish it again.
But in the home stretch, Mapeza’s side have managed a professional job, where they have not allowed Ngezi another sniff.
Shabanie Mine are no pushovers and they will be expected to give a big fight in the derby, but still, there is an air of certainty about this one.
Shabanie have won just two matches this season and it looks unlikely that their third win would come against the table toppers.
However, Shabanie have been a tough opponent in their own backyard, where they lost just three matches from the 16 defeats that they suffered in the campaign so far.
Mapeza knows the job is not yet done and he has been his usual self in demanding focus.
Though with a clear sight of another red carpet walk to the championship podium, he says he is approaching the game with caution, knowing their impoverished neighbours could turn to be party spoilers considering the fiery grudge that exists between the two sides.
“The approach is the same. We have the same mentality and same attitude. I think everybody knows where we are standing at the moment,” Mapeza told reporters yesterday.
“There is no need for us to change our mentality and our attitude, but we must be very cautious ahead of this game.
“We are playing for points and they have their own reasons for wanting to win this match, which we don’t know. I don’t think there is any party to spoil yet because the season is not yet over.
“We have three games left to play, so for now, it’s game on. We can only talk of a party when the season ends, that is why I said we are taking the same cautious approach to this game.”
The former Warriors mentor is hoping to finish the job this weekend before they face off with Ngezi on the following match day.
“Even if we were going to play an amateur side, I would want to win that game. I want to win everything. I take everything that involves football seriously, maybe that is my problem. As a coach, the players, in fact, everyone at FC Platinum is taking this game seriously,” he said.
Mapeza is not expecting any let off from their relegated neighbours.
“We are not expecting any favours. In football, anything is possible, we cannot underestimate our opponents. We have to run our own race and not be put under unnecessary pressure,” he said.
The platinum miners sit comfortably on top of the log table with 71 points and have a healthy nine-point advantage over Ngezi, with three games left to play.
If they manage a point tomorrow, it will see them reach an unassailable 72 points.
Shabanie have of late struggled to assemble an 18-member squad, worsened by a section of players that were reported to be staging an industrial action over unpaid dues yesterday.