Makomborero Mutimukulu in CONAKRY, Guinea
FC PLATINUM coach Norman Mapeza reckons the CAF Champions League group stage is a treacherous terrain where teams get punished for the slightest of mistakes.
“It’s like a game of chess, every move you make must be calculated. You cannot afford to blink at this level, not even for a second,” said Mapeza ahead of tonight’s Group B clash with Horoya AC at the Stade du 28 Septembre.
The pre-match interview with the travelling band of local media that is here has ended and the Reigning Castle Lager Coach of the Year is about to retreat back to his room when a simple good luck wish invites a football lecture.
“Luck at this level?” says Mapeza in typical Norman Mapeza style.
“There is no luck at this level, you have to play the very same way you train. At home in the Premier Soccer League you can get away with luck, but not at this level.
“Look at the game we lost to Horoya at Barbourfields, we did a video review of that game and everyone agreed that we did not play the way we planned to play.
“As the boys watched that game over and over again, they said ‘no coach, we did not play the way we were supposed to play’. And I was happy to hear them admit that because it’s a sign that they are learning their lessons.”
Horoya beat FC Platinum 1-0 in their last outing courtesy of a Marius Assoko 51st minute penalty.
History will show that Petros Mhari hacked down a charging Mandela Ocansey and left referee Mustapha Gorbal with no option but to point to the spot.
But for Mapeza the goal came after Pure Platinum Play had attacked blindly.
“We were punished for lack of awareness, we knew that Mandela does not track back and worked on containing his threat but in one move we went about attacking blindly and got hit,” said the FC Platinum coach.
Not convinced that what he was saying was making sense to the writer Mapeza signalled that we move from the Onomo Hotel gym back to the lobby.
Once back in the lobby the former Galatasaray midfielder took three sheets of bond paper, a pen and began illustrating what went down at Barboufields.
“This is us attacking on the left flank,” continues Mapeza as he draws a line on the paper.
“Raphy (Muduviwa) ventures up field with the intention to add the attack but is not aware that he is leaving Mandela lurking. Awareness and communication lacked there.
“Once we get robbed of the ball it’s switched to Mandela and we are short of numbers at the back. Mandela charges at goal, Petros is forced to come out and what happens, happens. Elsewhere such penalties are not given but on the day it was given and we paid the price.”
So what’s the approach tonight?
“We have to go out there and play football, we are in a space whereby we need points. There is no option but to take the game to them.
“In the qualifying rounds we kept it tight at the back because then it was not about the result but qualifying for the group stages. “But we are here now with a single point from three games and have no option but to win this game. We believe we are still in it and will give it our all.”
If FC Platinum are to get their maiden group stage to win they will have to do something which they have failed to do in 270 minutes of football — score.
The Zimbabwean champions drew 0-0 with Orlando Pirates and lost 0-2 to Esperance before the 1-0 reverse they suffered at the hands of Horoya at BF.
Mapeza revealed that he has been telling his strikers to make the most of the crumbs that come their way.
“The clear cut chances are few and far between at this stage. You have to make the most of the half chances that come your way. Look at the stats of our game against Esperance, they had two shots on target and won 2-0.
“However, I must highlight that scoring goals is a team thing, it’s not about the strikers alone.
The defence has to be tight, the midfielders have to be creative and the strikers have to make the runs and sniff out chances,” he said. But there is talk that Mapeza doesn’t give players freedom and demands that they play in a structured way?
There is a stare, some silence and finally the answer.
“The players are free to do what makes the team win, I tell them that if there is need to take on a defender do that.
At FC Platinum we want to play football, we want to keep the ball, we love the ball so the only thing I am against is losing possession.
“God permitting this team will become a continental force too. It’s a matter of time, the experience you get in the CAF Champions League is priceless,” said Mapeza.