By Petros Kausiyo and Eddie Chikamhi
FIFA have wasted no time in saluting FC Platinum’s second successive Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title, with the world’s president Gianni Infantino yesterday lauding the exploits of the Zvishavane miners.
Norman Mapeza’s men clinched the 2018 championship with two games and six points to spare after seeing off the challenge of Ngezi Platinum in a two-horse race for the title.
Infantino was quick to dispatch his message to Zimbabwe with the FIFA boss sending a congratulatory message to FC Platinum via ZIFA president Philip Chiyangwa yesterday.
“FC Platinum are the 2018 champions of Zimbabwe. It gives me pleasure to ascend my warmest congratulations to FC Platinum for their second successive championship title.
“This title is the result of determination of everyone involved and my congratulations go to the players, the coach, the administration, the entire technical and medical staff as well as the fans for this great achievement.
“On behalf of the entire football community, I would like to thank FC Platinum and your association for helping to spread the positive message of football.
“I remain at your disposal and look forward to meeting you soon,” wrote Infantino.
In joining an exclusive club of teams that have managed back to back wins in this country, FC Platinum also underlined their growing reputation that could be the next dominant force in Zimbabwean football.
FC Platinum will be handed the silverware in their next home game against nearest rivals Ngezi Platinum Stars who somehow lost the plot in the latter stages of the campaign.
And for the first time since 2010, the Castle Lager championship will not be decided on the last day.
Although it looked Ngezi would stretch the race to the wire, their experience showed along the way as they fizzled out in the intensity of the heat that comes with staying atop.
Instead Ngezi Platinum took a rather weird decision to fire their coach Tonderai Ndiraya with five games to go and with only as many points separating the top-two sides.
Whatever motivated the leadership at Ngezi Platinum to take that drastic measure, the decision was always going to backfire because naturally the new men in charge would need their time to settle in while players had to deal with the “trauma” of losing their coach at such a key moment of the marathon.
After Ndiraya’s sudden departure, Ngezi went on to drop four points in their next two games and even the win against Bulawayo Chiefs could not stop FC Platinum from wrapping up the title.
Most disappointingly, the game that was supposed to decide the championship between the two platinum sides, which is their next assignment, has now been reduced to a mere dead rubber.
In fact, it’s Ngezi Platinum who will perform the guard of honour at Mandava in their next game when the two-time champions are expected to be handed their silverware.
This feat was last achieved by St Paul’s Musami of Murehwa in 1966.
FC Platinum have come on the domestic scene as one of the most organised clubs and have led the way in adhering to the new Club Licensing requirements.
That they have been improving every season since Mapeza’s arrival in August 2014, from finishing fourth to being crowned champions twice, shows that FC Platinum’s dominance could run into more years to come if the other Premiership clubs do not wake up to smell the coffee and reform in the way they run their affairs.
For FC Platinum, the lesson is coming out clear that there is no short cut to success.
And their investment into Mapeza and his charges has paid off for them in the last two years.
In fact it took FC Platinum seven seasons to win their first league title with Mapeza having been with them for four-and a- half seasons and he won two titles.
Along the way, they have established a strong model of modern football management and the professionalism is evident in their approach.
The side is sponsored by FC Platinum Holdings and they are usually cushioned from the financial burdens that weigh down most of the PSL teams including the traditional giants — Dynamos, Highlanders and CAPS United.
Dynamos are still the most successful club in the country with 21 league titles, followed by Highlanders on seven and CAPS United four.
But Dynamos have not won it in the last four years while Makepekepe were champions just two years ago before losing their plot this season.
Highlanders last won the title 12 years ago.
Since then the trio has failed to impress amid claims of rebuilding exercises to mask their monumental failure to even become part of the title equation.
DeMbare have been the worst of the lot this year, having to fight against relegation, for a team that finished runners-up on the last day of the season last year.
None of the big three sides has also been able to regularly contribute players to the national team for the Warriors Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers.
And it looks they may struggle again to have players on the calendar when the Soccer Star selection take place this month.
Yet FC Platinum do not have such worries with the trio of coach Mapeza and reigning Soccer Star Rodwell Chinyengetere and defender Kelvin Moyo, who was a runner-up last year, being touted among the favourites to dominate the awards this year.