Two of local football’s most revered coaches Rahman Gumbo and Joey Antipas came face-to-face on Sunday, in a top-of-the-table Castle Premier Soccer League showdown at Mandava Stadium.
Since both are previous league winners, they are well aware of the terrain they are operating in and took time to give insights on what is needed for one to be a champion.
Sunday’s match which ended in a goalless stalemate was an intriguing confrontation between two exceptional sides who both share title ambitions.
All the 28 men who stepped onto the pitch on the day gave their all as they toiled all afternoon but goals eluded them.
Tied on 41 points with Motor Action on top thanks to a superior goal difference, both sides are firmly on course to lift the league title.
FC Platinum would want to justify boasting an expensively-assembled squad, while the Mighty Bulls are keen to retain their title. But the challenge being waged by chasing Dynamos and Highlanders cannot be ignored.
Third-placed Dynamos who prevailed 2-0 over Shabanie on the same day are five points behind the joint leaders, while Bosso are also within shouting distance with 35 points on fourth spot.
Gumbo, a three-time championship winner on both home and foreign soil, is wary of the size of task that awaits him.
“For us to win the title we have to be very strong, but some of my boys have not yet appreciated the pressure of being at the top. There is a price that comes with being at the top and some of my boys have not yet warmed up to it,” said Gumbo, who has won league titles in Zimbabwe, Malawi and Botswana.
From the opposite dugout, Antipas who tasted league success last season says he only needs a never-say-die spirit from his charges to wrap it up.
“At this stage of the campaign the most important quality we are looking at here is that fighting spirit. The never-say-die spirit. I believe we have that quality and we will keep on fighting until we get want we want,” Antipas said.
His skipper, Marlon Jani, whose football desire seems to know no bounds and a veteran of many battles between the posts, said they now require nerves of steel.
“Right now what we need are real men. We need to separate boys from men.
“Not just anyone can win the title, but only those men who are brave enough for tough challenges. I would like a repeat of last season because it is great to lift the championship,” said Jani.
On Sunday, it appeared as if Antipas had plotted well against his former players Charles Sibanda and Bhekimpilo Ncube who both had a difficult day and did not last the entire match.
A poor show darkened Sibanda’s afternoon, something unusual for someone who is regarded as a vital piece in the FC Platinum puzzle.
Motor Action’s indomitable rearguard which has shipped in just 10 goals continued to impress with the central defensive pair of Reuben Machaya and Godfrey Moyo on alert to keep at bay Donald Ngoma and Benjamin Marere who came in for Ncube at halftime.
Tricky assignments await both sides and the games will provide intense scrutiny for both teams.
FC Platinum next weekend visit tricky Chicken Inn at Luveve and are yet to host under-pressure Caps United. Stubborn Blue Ribbon who have felled all the three traditional giants of local football are waiting in the wings, while youthful Gunners who are on the rise under Moses Chunga will be a dangerous hurdle.
The Zvishavane derby would not be easy for the platinum miners, while Monomotapa whom they will host are no pushovers.
The Dynamos match at Mandava will definitely be a tough contest. For the Mighty Bulls, they also have a Chicken Inn test, though at home. Caps United are in their itinerary and so are Blue Ribbon.
The Dynamos as well as the Shabanie Mine games at Maglas and Gunners will definitely be torrid tests.