There are still three games to go and nine points at stake in the remaining fixtures of the 2018 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title race, but it is safe to say for the second year running the championship is safely in FC Platinum’s hands.
Inside Sport with MICHAEL KARIATI
Although many say it is not over until it is over, chances of a dramatic collapse on the part of Pure Platinum Play are very slim considering the fact that they have relatively easy remaining fixtures, one of which is against already relegated Shabanie Mine.
In fact, the platinum miners can wrap up their title as early as next Saturday when they host their Zvishavane neighbours in a game that is likely to attract a very big crowd at Mandava Stadium, including the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League trophy itself.
What is also to “Kugona Kunenge Kudada’s” advantage is the fact that they will also play host to their nearest rivals Ngezi Platinum Stars in one of their three remaining matches. With the way Ngezi are playing at the moment, chances are very slim that Madamburo will pick up even a single point from Mandava Stadium.
On top of that is the fact that Ngezi Platinum Stars also have not all that appealing remaining matches against Bulawayo City and Black Rhinos, who are both eager to end the season on a high in what has not been an all that good a year.
What is heartening in FC Platinum’s dominance in the past two seasons is the shift of the balance of football power from Harare to other parts of the country.
With FC Platinum, Ngezi Platinum, Chicken Inn and Triangle at the top, this is also a sign of how the traditional giants CAPS United, Dynamos and Highlanders have lost their way to what were once perceived as small teams.
Long gone are the days when Bosso, DeMbare and Makepekepe made the title their preserve, and exchanged the championship at will.
However, a look at the top four teams right now also reveals that it is the teams who are well sponsored — FC Platinum by Mimosa, Ngezi Platinum by Zimplats, Chicken Inn by Innscor, and Triangle by Tongaat Hulett — who are doing well while the community and individually sponsored clubs are wallowing.
However, this space today belongs to FC Platinum and Pure Platinum should start looking forward to building a strong team for the CAF Champions League as their previous appearances in the pan-African club football tournament have not been all that encouraging.
In their 2015 Caf Confederation Cup appearance, FC Platinum received a rude awakening after they were knocked out 5-2 on aggregate by Tanzania’s Young Africans, who are not even a heavyweight in African football.
This year “Kugona Kunenge Kudada” were bundled out in the preliminary round of the Caf Champions League after losing both their home and away matches to Primeiro de Agosto of Angola on a massive 5-1 aggregate.
Although Norman Mapeza’s side will take comfort in the fact that they lost out to a good team that went on to reach the semi-finals of the competition, the fact that they were knocked out in the preliminary stages does not make interesting reading for future generations.
A look back at their previous appearances shows that FC Platinum have been content with signing a collection of high-profile players instead of looking for players to resolve their weaknesses for each particular department.
Although they have dominated the Zimbabwean game, continental club football is far much different, and FC Platinum — should they, as expected, win the league title — need to have a relook at their recruitment policy and build more on their weaknesses instead of their strengths.
Mapeza has on numerous occasions been given the chance to handle the Zimbabwe national team, but on all occasions he has not been given the chance to play until the last game of the campaign. The Caf Champions League gives him the chance to prove what he has to offer as far as international football is concerned.
With the Zimbabwean football season starting in August, FC Platinum’s progression in the Caf Champions League will also give them the advantage of preparing fully for the domestic season while their competitors would be on a rest.
Dynamos remain Zimbabwe’s flag bearers in pan-African football after reaching the Caf Champions League final in 1998 and the semi-finals in 2008, but if Zimbabweans are waiting for a repeat of that from DeMbare, then they will — this time — wait forever.
Now is the time for FC Platinum and others to lead the way.
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