Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Acting Sports Editor
HIGHLANDERS legends and civic leaders around Bulawayo have called on football fans in the city to put the national pride ahead of any differences and fully rally behind FC Platinum when they take on South African giants Orlando Pirates in a Total Caf Group B opener set for Barbourfields Stadium next week.
The clarion call by championship winning heroes, Dazzy Kapenya, Zenzo Moyo, Ernest Maphepha Sibanda as well as respected Gwanda Residents Association secretary general Bekezela Maduma come after the Zvishavane miners confirmed that they have chosen Emagumeni for their pool games even before Mandava Stadium is officially condemned by Caf because of lack of floodlights as some of the group matches could be played at night.
“FC Platinum are no longer representing Zvishavane alone but they are now embracing all of us as Zimbabweans and we need to support them unreservedly because they are raising our level of football. From all walks of life people must rally behind FC Platinum in these games, especially next week when Orlando Pirates come to town. Yes people have their foreign teams which they support, myself included but for this cause I beg especially fellow Highlanders supporters that we all put one jacket and support FC Platinum because we all stand to benefit as a nation if Norman Mapeza and his boys succeed,” said former Highlanders skipper and 2002 Soccer Star of the Year Kapenya.
Another club legend and former Soccer Star of the Year, Moyo said there was a need for people to look at the bigger picture more than just local football rivalry.
“It just goes without saying that we need to support these boys (FC Platinum). Yes Pirates has followers especially here in Bulawayo but let us look beyond mere fanatism and see what we stand to benefit by FC Platinum’s success. No one knows what the destiny holds for them in the tournament, they can go all the way and reach the final of the Caf Champions League and that means Barbourfields and Bulawayo in particular will host a final. Just imagine the benefits that will be enjoyed by a number of people including putting our city on the global stage,” said Moyo who is also the vice chairman of Bulawayo City FC.
Maduma said there is no reason for Zimbabweans to support the Sea Robbers when they come to Emagumeni and also said Zimbabwe must come first as a victory for the South Africans will not benefit the country in any way.
“We have our own sons playing for FC Platinum, why should we turn against them now? People have to sober up and take this as a serious matter. FC Platinum needs us, they have respected us by choosing Bulawayo so let us reciprocate that by rendering them that support. You will be surprised that had they taken this game to Harare the who is who of the capital folks would have turned up to rally behind FC Platinum so let’s not throw away ubuntu bethu bakithi, just for those 90 minutes, let our hearts be green and white,” said the Gwanda based Maduma.
The same sentiments were echoed by former Highlanders manager and chairman Maphepha who said an FC Platinum success was a national joy not just a Zvishavane pride in this tournament.
“Our flag will be flying high on Saturday, not a Zvishavane flag. I know Bosso resonates with Orlando Pirates hence even the slogan that we do before kick off will be done by Pirates but please bantu bakithi let us forget about that this time around. If FC Platinum excels in this tournament we are likely to have more representation in future Caf tournaments just like the South Africans so let’s be patriotic and support FC Platinum even if its for 90 minutes as that will have long term benefits to the country,” said Sibanda.
The other home encounters in the group stage for FC Platinum are the fixtures against Guinea’s Horoya set for the weekend of February 1-3 and a clash with defending champions Esperance pencilled for the period from mid March.
The top two teams in the group qualify for the quarterfinals whose draw will be conducted on March 20.