FC PLATINUM wrapped up the Castle Lager Premier League championship campaign in style at the weekend, as the well-resourced side yet again wrote another beautiful piece of history by becoming the first team outside Harare and Bulawayo to successfully defend their title.
BY HENRY MHARA/TERRY MADYAUTA
The Norman Mapeza-coached side beat Shabanie Mine 1-0 at Maglas Stadium to confirm their superiority over the rest of the teams in the league, lifting the title with two games to spare.
On the face of it, it would appear as if the Zvishavane-based side strolled to the finishing line. This argument could be valid considering that champions in the past seven years had to go through the final day drama to confirm their conquest.
Mapeza’s men needed to hold their nerves on the last day of the league programme last season to beat Chapungu away and ensure they pip Dynamos to the title by just two points.
But here they are now popping the champagne bottles with two rounds of matches to go.
According to Mapeza though, this was not a stroll in the park as it might look.
“We invested so much hard work as a team and my colleagues will agree with me that winning back-to-back titles is difficult and it means a lot to a coach and his players,” Mapeza said.
The former Warriors coach missed a huge chunk of the season due to health reasons, but unity, focus and determination kept the team together until he returned to see through the campaign.
“We have walked this journey as a team. I was not around for some games, but the other coaches steered the team so well in my absence. But after my injury, the boys kept soldiering on to get good results. I want to thank them for that. The important thing has been to psyche up our players, keep them mentally strong because we knew the challenge that we were going to face in trying to defend our title.”
With the latest success, the trendsetting platinum miners now become the first team outside Harare and Bulawayo to win two consecutive Premier League titles.
They also gate-crashed into the elite group of clubs to have successfully defended the title. The group comprises of the country’s biggest clubs in the country – Dynamos, Caps United and Highlanders.
On a personal level, Mapeza becomes one of the few local coaches to win three league medals, having also guided a modest Monomotapa to league success in 2008.
“Records are always there to be broken. Even the records that we are setting right now will be broken by someone else in future,” Mapeza said.
FC Platinum appeared to be in a two-horse race with their platinum miners rivals Ngezi Platinum Stars, before Mapeza’s men tore away on the home stretch.
“They gave us a good run for our money, but I think we got an edge because we were more consistent. That is the nature of the competition, but I think the biggest difference was on the mental strength. That is having the strength to rise up after falling,” Mapeza reckons.
Having been in this business for a long time, Mapeza knows that winning the title is not everything for the ever-demanding club like FC Platinum. They expect more.
“The job of a coach is win titles and if you do that, what will be next is to bring more success to your bosses. We still have two games to play before the season ends, but a bigger task lies ahead of us in the Caf Champions League.”
FC Platinum have fared badly in their last three appearances in the African safari, failing in the initial stages, and the club’s executive will no doubt demand an improvement. A group stage appearance would be considered a huge success. Mapeza’s men will lift the Premier Soccer League trophy in their final game of the season away to Highlanders, before switching their focus to the Caf Champions League campaign which begins next month.