WHEN Norman Mapeza joined FC Platinum in August 2014, halfway through the season, he was tasked with helping the struggling Zvishavane moneybags to a respectable fourth place finish.
by MUNYARADZI MADZOKERE
He achieved it.
The following season the club asked the Warriors interim coach for a third place finish and he delivered.
Last season, the target was second place and again Mapeza achieved it, although he got a lot of flak for failing to win the coveted title and rumours were awash that he would be fired, yet he survived.
This season, the FC Platinum executive demanded the title and for a long period it didn’t look like the distinguished coach would achieve the historic feat.
But last week playing against Chapungu at Ascot in the last match of the season, needing nothing short of victory to shrug off a Dynamos challenge, FC Platinum needed just five first half minutes to score two crucial goals that would help them make history for Midlands and Zvishavane.
And now Mapeza is a cult hero in that part of the country for bringing a maiden league title to the province as well as the football crazy mining community.
It is also the first time the local league has been won by a team outside Harare or Bulawayo in 51 years, since St Paul’s Musami from Murehwa in 1966.
“It’s a massive achievement for me. Its every coach’s dream to achieve something at the end of every season such that when your career is over, you can always look back and be proud of the achievements,” an excited Mapeza told The Sports Hub on the sidelines of the Soccer Stars selection meeting.
While the drum-beating and celebratory mood is already dying down in the mining town, Mapeza is yet to really enjoy his new-found status in Zvishavane as he had to prepare for the Castle Challenge Cup against Harare City, which was played yesterday.
“It’s a great feeling to have won the league for the whole of Midlands for the first time, but I haven’t had the chance to celebrate with the community because we have to focus on the Castle Challenge Cup. But after this weekend’s game against Harare City, maybe I will get the opportunity to celebrate with everyone,” he said.
For Mapeza, it was a second league title, as it had been nine years since he stood on that winners’ podium with Monomotapa in 2008.
His recent success has, however, by no means diminished his hunger for more silverware.
“I am a coach I still want to win titles. In 2008 we won the league and I thought I was going to be coach of the year but I lost it because they said I fought with someone, which you know I didn’t do so it’s something which I am still looking forward to. It’s always an honour to be voted player of the year but besides, I still want to win more things in my career,” revealed Mapeza.
Mapeza was overwhelming favourite to land the biggest football prize on the local scene at the start of the season, but top form by Ngezi Platinum, Chicken Inn, Dynamos and at some point Black Rhinos cast a shadow over the tag.
“This season was very difficult. If you look at what Tonderai Ndiraya did with Ngezi and if you also look at Chicken Inn, CAPS United and Dynamos, then you can appreciate how tough the competition was. Nobody was really on top of the table for a long time, with the top position changing hands almost every week,” he said.
In hindsight, where exactly did FC Platinum outwit their rivals to emerge the Zimbabwe champions, especially considering how they have choked in the title race in the past seasons?
“Some people say we won the league by collecting six points from Dynamos but I think we won it in the last three games especially against Tsholotsho away and Ngezi in Zvishavane. Those were massive points and great character from the team to collect maximum points under immense pressure,” the former Warriors midfielder said.
Mapeza also had to conduct some shrewd business during the mid-season transfer window where he opted for experience, bringing in veterans Takesure Chinyama, Mkhokheli Dube and Ali Sadiki.
He could not stop gloating over his signings.
“Mkhokheli is a true professional and very disciplined. Chinyama was always pushing other guys in training, although he didn’t get much game time. I know why I bought them; they have the experience and have been in our situation before. Ali Sadiki was playing in the DRC and he had so much experience from there and I think everybody saw his contribution, it was massive,” the 45-year-old gaffer said.
The former Galatasaray player oversaw the meanest defence in the league and explains how he prefers his football played.
“I cannot say I am a master of defence but so many things happen in football. It is how you approach your games and how you want football to be played. I believe players must enjoy football, have discipline, free movement on the field and the most important thing for me is tactical discipline,” he said.
Now focus turns to the CAF champions’ league where FC Platinum will be flying the country’s flag high next season and Mapeza hopes to emulate CAPS United’s dream run on the African safari this year.
“We need to get organised in terms of beefing up the squad because it is not going to be easy out there. We have also learnt one or two things from what CAPS United did I think it’s motivation for us as a club. With organisation, I think we can achieve a lot, so organisation is key,” Mapeza said.