Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
BULAWAYO soccer enthusiasts are looking forward to watching the Total Caf Champions League thriller between Zimbabwean champions FC Platinum and South African giants Orlando Pirates.
The platinum miners chose Bulawayo’s Barbourfields Stadium for their continental clubs competition matches following condemnation of Mandava Stadium by Caf.
Most of the fans who spoke to Chronicle Sport said they are happy that they will get a chance to watch competitive football early since the local league starts in March.
The last time Bulawayo fans watched continental clubs’ competition was in 2016 when Chicken Inn played host to South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns in the first leg of the first preliminary round of the Caf Champions League.
A good crowd watched that clash which saw Zimbabwe’s 2015 champions playing to a 1-1 draw against a well-funded Sundowns.
Nerve Zhou, a lecturer at a Botswana university who is in the country on holiday said: “I love football and I’ll definitely drive back to Bulawayo to watch FC Platinum’s game against Orlando Pirates. I come from Mberengwa and I have a bias towards FC Platinum. This is a big game and a blessing in disguise for most of the fans in Bulawayo who have been given an opportunity to watch a big game.”
Football legends and civic leaders have urged the fans to rally behind FC Platinum.
With most locals following South African action, those that support Kaizer Chiefs and Mamelodi Sundowns are likely to support FC Platinum.
“I support Caps United and Mamelodi Sundowns and next week FC Platinum are rest assured of my support. We are going with my friends and I’m sure the platinum miners will do us a favour and beat Pirates. We don’t want to meet Pirates as Sundowns at the later stages of the tournament and that’s why we pray FC Platinum have to beat them,” said Ronald Malinga.
A Highlanders fan, Precious Mathema said she was caught in between national pride and supporting her team of choice.
“I’m a Highlanders and Buccaneer fan. I’m happy that I’ll be able to watch my favourite South African team playing live in Bulawayo. It’s a pity that they are not playing Highlanders but nonetheless I’m looking forward to some beautiful football. Of late Pirates have been playing well and I’m hoping that our country’s representatives prepare well so that they are not embarrassed,” said Mathema.
Sean Jim, a staunch Dynamos supporter said: “Last year we lost the championship to FC Platinum but come next weekend, I’ll be on their corner when they play Orlando Pirates. I think it’s a blessing for us Bulawayo football lovers that this big match has been brought to our city.
Let us not turn our back on FC Platinum.”
Another DeMbare fan Biata Mawisire, said she will be rallying behind FC Platinum.
“I think it’s logical to support your countrymen when they go to a fight because they are representing us. When we (Dynamos) took part at continental competitions, we had the nation rallying behind us and let us do the same for FC Platinum. Hopefully they manage to go beyond the group stage,” said Mawisire.
Thulani “SaThuli” Moyo, a member of a group of Highlanders supporters called “Team Away” said most of their members are happy that the game has been brought to Barbourfields Stadium.
“I’ll be honest with you, before the match was moved to Bulawayo we had started planning travelling arrangements to watch Pirates in Zvishavane. Our members are divided in terms of supporting South African teams, with some being Pirates while others follow Kaizer Chiefs.
Those who follow Chiefs are preaching the #SupportFCPlatinum message. We are grateful to FC Platinum for bringing this game to Barbourfields Stadium which resulted in us saving the money that we were supposed to spend on our trip to Zvishavane,” Moyo said.
Allan Mushamba said he will bring his family for the epic clash.
“It’s not everyday that you have a team like Orlando Pirates coming to your home town and as such, I’ll tag along with friends and family.
Thanks to FC Platinum for qualifying for the Group Stage and making sure that local fans watch the best of the continent. My message is simple, let’s go in our numbers and create a carnival atmosphere while cheering our national flag bearers,” said Mushamba.
Another South African based Zimbabwean Mthabisi Mlingo who bankrolls Madlangombe Football Tournament in Tsholotsho, said he will drive back for the epic duel.
“I am a Zimbabwean first and I will support FC Platinum. I have no regrets for coming out on that one and besides their assistant coach Lizwe Sweswe has been supportive of my football tournament,” said Mlingo.
FC Platinum are in the same group with Guinea’s Horoya as well as Caf Champions League defending champions Esperance of Tunisia.