Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
CHAMPIONS FC Platinum are determined to earn a spot among Africa’s big boys of football and believe qualifying for the Caf Champions League quarter-finals will aid their cause.
The platinum miners made it into the group stages of the continental competition for a second consecutive edition and were drawn alongside Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia, Al Ahly of Egypt and Al Hilal of Sudan.
FC Platinum chairman Evans Mthombeni said they are marching closer to realising their vision.
“We are drawing closer to the club’s vision of being a leading brand in African football,” said Mthombeni.
“Our objective was to qualify for the group stages and now that we’ve done so, we want to effectively compete and try to better the number of points we got in the last edition. Last time we made it to the group stages and got two out of a possible 18 points. Now we want to better the number of points we amassed and possibly go beyond the group stages and earn another Caf Champions League slot for Zimbabwe,” he said.
The champions are unfazed by their Group B opponents, who are proven continental giants.
“I don’t think we could have done much about the draw. If you look at all the pots, all the teams are hot in terms of recent form or history. We’ll take the draw as it is. Obviously we would have wanted to get teams closer to us to manage travel costs, among other logistical costs.”
Pure Platinum Play, who had a winless run in the last Champions League campaign under Norman Mapeza where they managed only two draws against South Africa giants Orlando Pirates, get their campaign underway in Sudan at the end of November.
The hugely supported Sudanese side has 15 domestic league titles and has made 33 Champions League appearances, reaching the semi-final stages a number of times, with the last time being in 2015.
Coached by former Senegalese international Lamine Ndiaye, Al Hilal were knocked out in the first round of the competition in 2018 and in the previous 2018-19 when Caf changed the season format of the competition.
After the opening round fixture, Tunisian giants and 2007 Caf Champions League winners Etoile du Sahel will come to Barbourfields Stadium on the weekend of December 6-7.
After the Christmas break, FC Platinum will be on the plane to face record eight-time Caf Champions League winners Al Ahly of Egypt on the weekend of December 27-28.
There will be a break due to the Chan finals in Cameroon set for January and early February before the games resume with Al Ahly travelling to Barbourfields on the weekend of February 14-15. It will be the Sudanese side’s second visit to Bulawayo after they were held to a goalless draw by Highlanders in the 2007 version of the competition before winning the reverse fixture 2-0.
Al Hilal (Sudan) v FC Platinum (29-30 November 2019), FC Platinum v Etoile du Sahel (Tunisia) ( 06-07 December 2019), Al Ahly SC (Egypt) v FC Platinum (27-28 December 2019), FC Platinum v Al Ahly SC (14-15 February 2020), FC Platinum v Al Hilal (21-22 February 2020), Etoile du Sahel v FC Platinum (06-07 March 2020). — @ZililoR