Inside Sport with MICHAEL KARIATI
All sorts of words were thrown at FC Platinum and their coach Norman Mapeza after Pure Platinum Play’s exit from the 2019 CAF Champions League following that 2-0 defeat to Horoya Athletic Club at the Stade September 28 in Guinea.
Some went on to suggest that Mapeza had failed and should throw in the towel and leave Zimbabwe’s richest and highest-paying football club.
What football followers forget is that FC Platinum are the best that Zimbabwean club football has to offer at the moment, and are likely to dominate the domestic game not only this year, but also for years to come.
Kugona Kunenge Kudada comfortably won the 2017 and 2018 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League titles, and their performance in the CAF Champions League clearly shows the actual standards of Zimbabwean football at club level.
The truth is that the gap between FC Platinum and the rest of the Premiership pack has been widening by each passing year and with the team Mapeza has assembled for the 2019 programme, the gap could widen even further by the end this season.
That they picked up only one point in four matches and that they did not score a goal and conceded six in the CAF Champions League is a true reflection of both the club and local football.
It should also be placed on record that just like FC Platinum, Zimbabwe’s Warriors also qualified for the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations finals and came back with only one point and rock-bottom in their.
group that also included Algeria, Senegal and Tunisia.
In fact, since 2012, the teams that have performed better for Zimbabwe in pan-African football are FC Platinum and CAPS United, who over the period, have managed to reach the mini-league stage, while the rest have fallen by the wayside either in the preliminary round or the first round.
Statistics show that since 2008 when Dynamos reached the semi-finals of the CAF Champions League, Zimbabwean football has been on a free fall with teams struggling to reach even the second round of both the Champions League and the Confederation Cup.
That Pure Platinum Play managed to reach the mini-league stage of the Champions League is an achievement itself.
The Zimbabweans will pocket a cool $500 000 for their performance, which will give them a good starting point for the 2019 soccer season.
Dynamos, the flag bearers of Zimbabwean football themselves, won the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League for four consecutive years between 2011 and 2014, but during that period failed to reach the mini-league stage despite their top billing in African football.
In 2013 and 2014, they were knocked out in the first round, while in 2012 they were bundled out in the second round. Chicken Inn got their chance in the Champions League in 2016, but lost out in the preliminary round.
Those who have represented the country in the Caf Confederation Cup have not fared any better. In 2012, Hwange were bundled out in the first round, while How Mine in 2013, FC Platinum in 2015, Harare City in 2016, and Ngezi Platinum Stars in 2017 could not go beyond the second round.
Worse still is the fact that the Zimbabwean teams lost out not to the big boys of African football, but lightweights like Alamal Atbara of Sudan, Baysela of Nigeria, Recreativo de Libolo of Angola, and Young Africans of Tanzania, another measure of the sad decline of Zimbabwean club football.
Instead of throwing stones at Mapeza and his team, Zimbabweans should be reflecting on the downward spiral that local football has gone through and find out what really has gone wrong to a country which at one time was among the best on the continent with two teams in the CAF Champions League.
That should be the starting point in trying to bring back the good old days of 1998 when the nation celebrated Dynamos reaching the CAF Champions League final.
At the moment, however, even a quarter-final place looks far beyond the reach of our teams.
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