Pride and history beckons for FC Platinum and Harare City when they cross swords this afternoon in the Chibuku Super Cup final at Mandava.
BY MICHAEL MADYIRA
Having already sealed a top-four league finish, the platinum miners are seeking a berth in next season’s CAF Confederations Cup by bagging the country’s oldest football knockout competition.
Masimba Dinyero’s Harare City are in their first ever final of a top-flight football tournament and face a grand historical moment by lifting this Cup.
It is an afternoon to savour at Mandava this afternoon.
FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza began his FC Platinum coaching tenure on August 16 with a Chibuku Super Cup first round 3-0 win over Bantu Rovers at Mandava.
Exactly three months down the line, after negotiating his way past the quarter-finals and the last four, he is back at Mandava to face Harare City in the final match this afternoon.
He will be seeking to wrap up what he started at Mandava.
After achieving the top-four league position last week, the platinum miners could be feeling destined to hit another target by claiming the Chibuku Cup.
They have never conceded a goal in this competition and have scored five so far.
Much focus appears to be on Mapeza who has flashed the potential to take FC Platinum to dizzy heights.
After missing the opportunity to coach Monomotapa in the CAF Champions League in 2009, and having bagged the league title the previous season with the now defunct side, Mapeza is facing another prospect of playing in the Africa Cup if he lifts the Chibuku trophy.
The platinum miners’ captain Petros Mhari said they are doing everything for their coach.
The goalkeeper also wants to return to Africa after playing in the CAF Confederations Cup with Hwange two years ago.
“We are playing for our fans but more for the coach,” said Mhari.
“One has to consider the amount of energy he has invested to make us good players. We really need this Cup. We also have to look at what is at stake. Who does not want to play in the Confederations Cup? It is another level of football. We have a lot of youngsters in the team and I would be happy if they play on that stage.”
FC Platinum have lost just one out of the eight games played at home in all competitions under the tutelage of Mapeza with the biggest win being a 6-0 mauling of CAPS United in the final of the ZNA Charity Shield.
The former Zimbabwe captain has taken charge of a total of 14 games, winning 10, drawing twice and losing only two games.
They go into this afternoon’s game on the backdrop of a nine-match unbeaten run.
But Mhari is not reading much into that as they face opponents who are struggling in the league.
“The coach has been telling us not to be complacent but respect our opponents. We managed to seal a top-four place but we are no longer thinking about that,” Mhari said.
“Our focus is on Sunday’s [today] game. This is a Cup game, different from the league matches. A Cup final is unpredictable because any team can win. We are expecting a tough assignment.”
Mapeza’s side has many advantages going into this match.
Kelvin Moyo, Walter Musona and Wisdom Mutasa were dropped from the national Under-23 squad which is in Morocco for an international friendly match while Harare City’s Takudzwa Chimwemwe travelled to North Africa.
FC Platinum have been dominating City this season, completing a league double over the capital city side with a 2-1 victory at Mandava, before winning the reverse fixture 2-0 last month.
While FC Platinum have been enjoying a nine-game unbeaten run, Harare City have gone for five straight games without tasting victory.
The poor run has left them facing the grim prospect of being relegated.
If Dinyero’s side wins this trophy and go on to be demoted from the Premier Soccer League, they would be playing in the Confederations Cup from the first division.
City skipper David Kutyauripo said their plan is to win today and draw motivation for their last league assignment.
“Definitely, winning the Chibuku Cup would inspire us in a big way ahead of the final league game. We could be struggling in the league but that does not mean we cannot win this Cup,” said Kutyauripo.
“We are more than ready to face FC Platinum and we are just waiting for the game. It is a great honour to play in this final. It does not matter that we are playing in their backyard, as you know Zvishavane is divided. A few of our supporters are travelling and we are guaranteed the backing of Shabanie Mine fans.”