Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Acting Sports Editor
EXACTLY 24 years ago FC Platinum came into existence while Orlando Pirates conquered all in Africa to land the Caf Champions League.
That was an eventful year for southern Africa after the Rainbow Nation, as South Africa is commonly known, also lifted the Rugby World Cup.
On this day in that year, O J Simpson’s murder trial for his girlfriend opened while the 264th Pope, John Paul 11, 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 Stadium in Bulawayo, FC Platinum and Orlando Pirates collide in their Total Caf Champions League Group B opener that is expected to draw one of the, if not the biggest ever crowd seen at Emagumeni in recent memory.
The match will also be beamed live on Supersport to audiences in Sub Saharan Africa, Australia, Asia, United States of America 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 also has defending champions Esperance and last year’s quarterfinalists Horoya of Guinea, only two of the four teams advance to the knockout stage of the tournament.
“It’s 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.
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 Stadium.
Mapeza, a 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 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 can’t 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.
He is however aware that their opponents this afternoon will have some cheering them on but said as a club they were mentally prepared and would not force anyone to rally behind them.
“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.
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.
The Buccaneers arrived in Bulawayo yesterday afternoon. 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.