Paul Mundandi in ZVISHAVANE and Eddie Chikamhi in HARARE
FOR years they have been knocking on the door, hoping to transform themselves into the immortals who would finally end the dominance of Harare and Bulawayo clubs, in the Castle Lager Premiership championship race, which has now stretched for 51 years.
In their six seasons in the top-flight league, FC Platinum have come second twice, third once, fourth twice and their worst performance was when they finished seventh in 2012 as they struggled to recover from the hangover inflicted by the pain of collapsing on the final hurdle in the previous race when victory appeared certain.
Last year, they again finished as the bridesmaids as Caps United won their first league championship title in 11 years.
But FC Platinum, who have repackaged themselves as the best professionally run football club in the country, believe they could clear the final hurdle and win the league championship this year.
No football club, from outside Harare and Bulawayo, has been crowned domestic champions since St Paul’s Musami won the title in 1966.
The Zvishavane miners took their pre-season preparations to South Africa where coach Norman Mapeza received some tips of how he can inspire his men to glory, from Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane and his coaching staff who include Zimbabwe legend Peter Ndlovu.
Mosimane inspired the Brazilians to their first Caf Champions League title last year and was named the Caf Coach of the Year.
The former Bafana Bafana coach leads a technical team that has Rulani Mokwena and Manqaba Mngithi — who are good enough to be taking charge of clubs on their own — as his assistants.
FC Platinum lured former Tsholotsho coach Lizwe Sweswe, a young coach who is regarded as a tactician, into their coaching staff as one of Mapeza’s assistants.
Mapeza yesterday said there was need for Zvishavane to unite, for a common cause, for his men to take on the giants from the country’s two biggest cities and beat them in the championship race this year.
The Warriors’ caretaker coach was speaking at Mandava yesterday when the club unveiled their new acquisitions, and additions to their coaching staff, while also parading the new luxury team bus that they have acquired.
FC Platinum president George Mawere, arguably the best football administrator in the country today, unveiled Talent Chawapiwa, Brett Amidu, Agrippa Murimba, Gift Mbweti and Lawrence Mhlanga who received a resounding applause from the fans.
“We need to be very united, we do not want wars and we must not have divisions if we are looking forward to winning the championship,” said Mapeza who won the title with Monomotapa in 2008.
“I will remind you of what Stephen Kompela always says. When you win you are the father, when you lose you look like an orphan. If we are to bring results we have to be a team, we have to be a family and we have to be strong.
“In the match with Dynamos, we are not under pressure. Those who say we are under pressure, it is their opinion but we have an objective as a club. The game on Sunday (tomorrow) will be a massive game and we are going there to try and get a positive result.
“Every club in the Premiership plays for the championship, if the club wins it’s not about Mapeza but it’s about the institution.”
Evans Mtombeni, the new club chairman, said they believe in Mapeza and their target was to win the league championship.
“We want to improve our position from number two last seasons to number one. Our vision remains to become the leading brand in football not only in Zimbabwe but in Africa.
“We also hope that Caps United will go all the way in the Champions League and earn two slots for Zimbabwe as it is our wish that our football must always dominate in Africa,” said Mtombeni.
FC Platinum will play their next home match at Maglas as their home ground is being renovated.
DeMbare skipper Ocean Mushure is sounding more like his defiant coach Lloyd Mutasa as he believes that the new-look Glamour Boys will be a force to reckon with this year.
With about 11 fresh faces coming through trials, DeMbare are likely to have a different outlook this year with no recognisable characters like showman Rodrick Mutuma, Godknows Murwira, Stephen Alimenda and goalkeeper Tatenda Mukuruva who formed the core of the side last year.
Instead, many will be trying to familiarise with the new players who include Emmanuel Mandiranga, Gift Saunyama, Quality Kangadze and Cameroonian Ntouba Poupa Christian Joel.
Mushure is among the experienced players in a line-up that also has Denver Mukamba, Masimba Mambare, Elisha Muroiwa, Valentine Ndaba and Obey Mwerahari.
“We have a new team packed with some inexperienced youngsters and the good thing is that we have played a lot of preparatory games so that we get used to playing together,’’ said Mushure.
“We are looking forward to competing for the championship and the other cups that we may come along the way. We will see how we will have fared after the first five to six games but I think we are there.’’
Mushure said the platinum miners should brace for a tough game against the Glamour Boys.
“We cannot single out one game. Football is all the same. You only need to do the right things on the pitch. If we can work as a team I think we may achieve our goals.
“Our fans should rally behind us always so that we maintain the focus.
“But this is going to be a very competitive season. There are many teams in the league this year and it makes the competition exciting.”