FC PLATINUM IN SEA ROBBERS’ ACID TEST

Sikhumbuzo Moyo and Mukudzei Chingwere in Bulawayo
EXACTLY 24 years ago, FC Platinum came into existence while Orlando Pirates conquered all in Africa to land the CAF Champions League football title in an eventful year for Southern Africa after the Rainbow nation also lifted the Rugby World Cup.

On this day in that year, OJ Simpson’s murder trial for the June 12, 1994, deaths of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend, Ron Goldman, opened while the 264th Pope John Paul II began his tour of South East Asia, the same day that the continent was battling with the demise of 5 092 people in Kobe, Japan, due to earthquake.

This afternoon at Barbourfields, FC Platinum and Orlando Pirates collide in their CAF Champions League Group B opener that is expected to draw one of the biggest ever crowds seen at Barbourfields in recent memory.

The match will also be beamed live by SuperSport to audiences in Sub Saharan Africa, Australia, Asia, United States and Canada, presenting the players with a perfect opportunity to market themselves.

It’s a journey that the two sides are hoping will end with the success story of the 1995 Rugby World Cup for South Africa and indeed the CAF Champions League as happened to the Buccaneers, while cognisant that a shaky start might be catastrophic at the end unless there is some divine intervention.

In a pool that has defending champions Esperance of Tunisia and last year’s quarter-finalists Horoya of Guinea, only two of the four teams get to advance to the knock-out stage of the tournament.

“Its a massive game for us, we are playing at the highest level of African football, this is the apex of African football and we just need to enjoy the experience which we are in now and come tomorrow (today) at 5pm, we will be talking of good news,” FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza said after yesterday’s morning training session at the match venue.

Mapeza also said the presence of big name players in the Orlando Pirates squad does not intimidate his men ahead of their CAF Champions’ League group stages match in Bulawayo this afternoon.

Veteran striker Mkhokeli Dube is expected to lead the line and will be supported by former Highlanders skipper Rahman Kutsanzira as well as Ali Sadiki up-front. The evergreen Farai Madhanaga is guaranteed of his place in midfield supported by Devon Chafa and Kelvin Madzongwe who is set to be deployed as the midfield sentinel. Kevin Moyo is likely to watch from the bench having just recovered from an injury while in defence vice-captain Gift Bello is likely to be partnered by William Stima whose pace will be relied upon to thwart the fast Pirates attack.

Wing backs Elvis Moyo and Raphael Muduviwa are expected to provide width for the backline while captain Petros Mhari will be between the sticks.

Former Kaizer Chiefs forward Edmore Chirambadare will not be available for this game with his papers yet to be formalised.

Warriors winger Kudakwashe Mahachi is back to his bewitching best for his South African side Pirates ahead of meeting his compatriots but Mapeza said he is not moved by the talents of an individual player save for Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi. “I am not worried about individuals, the only player I will be worried about maybe is Lionel Messi, but we do not concentrate on individuals we concentrate on the whole team… (not) only Kuda Mahachi.

“It is a massive game for us me as a coach and the players because we are playing at the highest level of African football.”

Mapeza is, however, aware that their opponents this afternoon will have many neutrals cheering them on and he said as a club they were mentally prepared and would not force anyone to rally behind his team.

“We can’t force people to come and support us, those who will come in and cheer us on I say thank you in advance and to those who will be supporting the visiting team no hard feelings, that’s their choice, it’s football and it’s normal all over the world but the most important thing for us is to deliver,” he said.

Pure Platinum Play arrived in the City of Kings and Queens early this week to continue with preparations for their maiden sojourn in the continental group games after the condemnation of Mandava.

The former Warriors midfielder and coach reiterated what was said by the club’s public relations officer Chido Chizondo that their stay in Bulawayo has been excellent and thanked the everyone who made them feel at home.

“So far so good, we came here on Tuesday night and we managed to train on Wednesday morning, yesterday we had an afternoon session and today we had another session. So far it has been good for us, I cant complain. People here have received us so well, they have been so good to us and we want to say thank you to the people of Bulawayo for the warm welcome they gave to us,” said Mapeza.

Skipper Petros Mhari said they just needed to believe in themselves that they can do it and everything else will fall into place.

“As players we have been motivating one another and telling ourselves that football is the same everywhere and with confidence and belief we know that we can do it,” said Mhari.

Orlando Pirates arrived in Bulawayo yesterday afternoon where they were met at the Joshua Mqabuko Nkomo International Airport by ZIFA executive committee member Bryton Malandule, communications manager Xolisani Gwesela and FC Platinum general manager Joseph Mususa.

Rwandan nationals will be in charge of the encounter this afternoon.

Thirty-year-old Jean Claude Ishimwe, who became a FIFA international referee in 2015, will blow the whistle, while being assisted by countrymen Dieudonne Mutuyimana (37) and 41-year-old Theoogene Ndagijimana, who became  FIFA international referees in 2018 and 2008 respectively.

FC Platinum Probable Line-up

Petros Mhari, Elvis Moyo, Raphael Muduviwa, Gift Bello, William Stima, Devon Chafa, Kelvin

Madzongwe, Farai Madhanaga, Rahman Kutsanzira, Ali Sadiki, Mkhokeli Dube