BY HENRY MHARA
DYNAMOS coach Tonderai Ndiraya has tipped FC Platinum to win the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title for the third time, but is not entirely ruling his side out of the title race.
The Norman Mapeza-coached side top the log standings after 19 rounds of matches, just a point above Caps United, while third-placed Chicken Inn are four points adrift and has a game in hand.
So congested are teams at the top that Dynamos on eighth position are just eight points off the log leaders with 15 matches still to play.
But Ndiraya, who came close to winning the title with Dynamos in 2017 — which was wrestled away by FC Platinum that year, and which they retained last year, believes the Zvishavane side will do it again this year.
In winning the title two years ago, FC Platinum made history by becoming the first team outside the big two cities Harare and Bulawayo to bag the biggest prize in domestic football.
If they can win the title for the third consecutive year, Mapeza’s men will became the third team after Dynamos and Highlanders to achieve that feat.
“The race is a bit tight this year, all the teams at the top, including us, have a chance of winning the title,” Ndiraya predicted.
“But obviously FC Platinum has been very consistent, I still think they have what it takes to retain the title. They are the favourites, if you ask me.”
FC Platinum has lost two of their last five matches, including a 2-0 defeat away to Triangle at the weekend, but they have maintained their narrow lead at the top.
This is largely because their rivals in the race have been inconsistent, dropping points at almost every turn.
Just a few weeks ago, Chicken Inn were just a point away from the champions and enjoyed two games in hand, but the Joey Antipas side wasted the opportunity when they drew against TelOne
before losing to ZPC Kariba.
“Chicken Inn are in with a big shout, Caps United are also in there with a big chance and Ngezi Platinum as well. Black Rhinos and Triangle have strong squads and all (have) very strong
teams that can fight for the title, so it’s going to be very tight, but I still feel that FC Platinum with all the experience they have amassed in the past three seasons can manage
things well and retain the league again,” Ndiraya opined.
FC Platinum is involved in the Caf Champions League which could prove a huge distraction in their bid to win the title again.
“If they really manage the two competitions well (league and Caf Champions League), they will win it. Like I said, they have been very consistent, especially when they are playing at
home. They hardly drop points when they play at home, and that makes them a very difficult opponent.”
FC Platinum’s record at their home ground, Mandava Stadium, has been impressive this season, losing just once, a 1-0 defeat to Ndiraya’s side.
Of the 10 wins they have recorded this term, six were achieved at home.
Turning on to his side, Ndiraya said he would not want to put his largely inexperienced side under pressure by demanding them to win the title this year.
“Of course, we are doing well and, eventually, we want to challenge for things, but to put our players under pressure and demand the title or some silverware will be too much for them.
Most of my players are actually playing premiership football for the first time,” Ndiraya said.
“The bulk of my players are still boys. You look at Tino Muringai, he is 19, Emmanuel Jalayi, Jarrison Selemani and Nigel Katawa are all still in their teens. These boys will need time
to develop without much pressure. But they are beginning to understand that they are playing for a big brand and there is not much time. So, they have to quickly develop and start
giving consistent performances for the team. I’m hoping that going forward, they will be consistent and fight with the big teams in the few games to come and put a good foundation for
next year, when I’ll be expecting to fight for honours.”
Ndiraya had targeted winning the first five matches of the second round of the league matches as he builds towards a strong finish to the campaign. They started off with a 2-0 win over
Mushowani Stars last weekend, but came unstuck in Hwange at the weekend when they were held to a 2-2 draw.
They face off with Chicken Inn on Sunday.
Castle Lager Premier Soccer League fixtures
Saturday: Bulawayo Chiefs v Black Rhinos (Luveve), Ngezi Platinum Stars v Hwange (Baobab), Chapungu v Caps United (Ascot), Yadah v Herentals (Rufaro), ZPC Kariba v TelOne (Nyamhunga)
Sunday: Highlanders v Harare City (Barbourfields), Dynamos v Chicken Inn (Rufaro)
Postponed matches: FC Platinum v Mushowani Stars, Manica Diamonds v Triangle