By Mukudzei Chingwere
After failing to make a mark on the continent in previous attempts, FC Platinum captain Petros Mhari celebrated their passage into the group stages of the CAF Champions League and dared the continent’s big brothers that they are not in the competition to make numbers.
The Zvishavane-based side progressed to the mini league stage at the expense of Congolese side, AS Otoho and now await Friday’s draw to ascertain the identity of their mini league opponents.
Pure Platinum Play have dominated the local league for the past two seasons, but a continental breakthrough was proving to be a big task for coach Norman Mapeza and his men.
Though they did not progress in convincing fashion after playing second fiddle to the visitors for larger parts of the match, Mhari said they are ready for the new challenge.
“We set a target as a team which is to get into the mini league and we are all happy that we have achieved the goal we had set.
“Every player wants to leave a history at a club, FC Platinum has never been to the mini league so that is why we all worked so hard to get the team through, it was not easy but I am happy we have managed to do it.
“But that does not mean to say we will relax now that we are going to the group stages, we are not going there to make numbers we want to do well again.
“We are ready for the new challenge, I am appealing to our supporters and the country at large to continue supporting us like they have always been doing,” said Mhari.
In the later stages of the competition, the miners are unlikely to face weaker opposition like they did in the earlier stages and coach Mapeza might turn to the market to add more players after initially filling 27 of the allotted 30 slots in his squad.
Meanwhile, ZIFA president Felton Kamambo has congratulated the miners for their progression and wished them well in the later stages of the competition.
“ZIFA congratulates FC Platinum executive, technical team, and players for progressing to the Total Champions’ league group stages.
“The club’s success is testimony of persistence and hard work needed to put our football on the map.
“Victories over CNaPS and AS Otoho are a mark of progression from previous attempts, and that is a shot in the arm for Zimbabwean football.
“We wish the Zimbabwean Champions all the best as they undertake their new challenge.
“To have two teams qualifying for the group stages in the past three years is a tremendous feat for local football,” said Kamambo in a statement.
ZIFA have also asked the platinum miners to explain an altercation between coach Norman Mapeza and Gift Bello at the end of the match on Saturday.
Source : The Herald