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Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
THE uneven surface FC Platinum find themselves battling on in the CAF Champions League has been highlighted by revelations Tunisian giants Esperance earned a staggering US$27 million since August 2017.
The Zimbabwe football kings have yet to win a match in the group stages of the CAF Champions League where, despite their dominance on the domestic front, they still look lightweight in the company of the traditional giants of African football.
The Zvishavane miners played Esperance in their 2018/2019 CAF Champions League group and were beaten 0-2 in Tunis before falling 1-2 at Barbourfields.
They suffered back-to-back defeats to Guinea side Horoya, losing 0-2 in Conakry and 0-1 at Barbourfields.
However, FC Platinum impressed against Orlando Pirates of South Africa, holding the Soweto giants to a goalless draw before a packed Barbourfields and led 2-0 at the Orlando Stadium, with 10 minutes left in regulation time, before conceding twice in the final moments of the game.
Esperance went all the way to win the Champions League and, this week, finished fifth at the FIFA Club World Cup in Doha, Qatar.
In the 2019/2020 CAF Champions League, FC Platinum started their group stage campaign with a 1-2 defeat at the hands of Al Hilal in Sudan before they were comprehensively beaten 0-3 at Barbourfields by Etoile du Sahel of Tunisia.
They face another tough group match against record African champions, Al Ahly, of Egypt in their third match in Cairo next weekend.
After leading the Zvishavane miners to a third straight domestic Premiership title, club president, George Mawere, revealed they remained guided by their ambitions to one day conquer the continent.
“Guided by our footballing philosophy, which goes beyond just winning matches, throughout the season, we struck a delicate balance of fair and entertaining play that was matched by the highest professional standards,’’ Mawere said.
‘‘We also learnt the virtues of patience and humility along the way, which will undoubtedly go a long way in helping us to realise our mission to become a force to reckon with, not only in Zimbabwe but Africa at large.
‘‘While critics viewed our milestones as over ambitious and impossible, we pursued our targets with dogged tenacity and discipline; and sure enough our strong resolve paid off.
“As we celebrate this momentous achievement today, we remain alive to our vision to be a leading football brand in Africa and are in no way under illusion as to the amount of resources this will take; both material and talent,’’ he said.
‘‘This vision is no mean aspiration. It calls upon us to search for the guidance and support of the entire nation.
“Our success will definitely have far-reaching influence and impact, well beyond Zvishavane and the Midlands province, and as we celebrate today as the reigning Zimbabwe Premier League club football champions, who will once again go on to represent the nation at the highest level of club football on the continent, our celebrations resonate at national level.’’
But, there is no doubt FC Platinum are fighting on a terrain where the playing field is not level and, revelations that Esperance pocketed about US$27 million in the past two years, puts into perspective the mountain which the Zvishavane miners have to climb.
While their opponents have huge financial bases, which enable them to flex their muscles and strengthen their players with international players, a case in point being Horoya’s investment into the talents of Zimbabwean midfielder, Lewis Kutinyu, FC Platinum will have to break the bank to finance such a move.
Crucially, as can be seen in the case of Esperance, their opponents are also reaping huge financial benefits from selling their players to leagues were such transfers mean big business.
In sharp contrast, FC Platinum have only been able to move their stars to the South African Premiership with the Moyo twins — Elvis and Kelvin — moving to Chippa United who do not pay a fortune for their acquisitions. Rodwell Chinyegetere also had a stint with modest Supa Diski side, Baroka United, before tracing his footsteps back to FC Platinum.
The financial rewards for FC Platinum, when the won the league title this season, was Z$200 000.
A breakdown of the huge financial windfall of US$27 million, which Esperance have earned since August 2017, gives a fine illustration of how the Zimbabwean side are competing on a playing field that isn’t level.
The Tunisian giants have pocketed US$2.5 million from winning the 2017 Arab Championship, US$650 000 from reaching the group stages of the CAF Champions League, US$764 000 from their players who were with the Carthage Eagles at the 2018 World Cup, US$2.5 million for winning the 2018 CAF Champions League.
They also pocketed US$50 000 from reaching the Round of 16 at the 2018 Arab Championships, got a further US$1,5 million for finishing fifth at the FIFA Club World Cup this week, took home US$150 000 from the CAF Super Cup and another US$2.5 million from winning the 2019 CAF Champions League.
There was also a further US$50 000 from finishing in the Round of 16 in the 2019 Arab Championship and another US$1.5 million for finishing fifth at the 2019 FIFA Club World Cup.
The Tunisians have banked a considerable fortune for players sold since August 2017 — Youcef Belaili (Al Ahli Jeddah, US$3.5 million), Franck Kom (Al Rayyan SC, US$4.5 million), Ferjani Sassi (Al Nassr SC, US$2.3 million), Montasar Talbi (Caykur Rizespor, US$354 000), Mohamed Ali Moncer (CS Sfaxien, US$122 400).
Ticket sales during the CAF Champions League in 2018 and 2019 brought in US$2.8 million.