FC Platinum host Green Mamba

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African inter-club football returns to Zvishavane this afternoon after exactly a decade as flamboyant club FC Platinum host Swazi champions Green Mamba in an African Champions League second leg match at Mandava Stadium, with both teams yesterday declaring their readiness for battle.

This follows Shabanie Mine’s hosting of St Michel of Seychelles at the once-dreaded Maglas Stadium in March 2002 in the then Caf Cup Winners Cup, when a Gerald Phiri strike helped the asbestos miners edge the Indian Ocean islanders before they fell 3-0 in the return leg in Victoria.

But what makes today’s encounter more peculiar is that it is the first time that African Champions League football in Zimbabwe is played outside Harare or Bulawayo.

Unlike their visitors, Platinum will not be facing any conundrum, but would be simply defending a cool 4-2 lead they secured in the reverse leg at Somhlolo Stadium two weeks ago.

The platinum miners would be praying the ghost of BMC will not return to haunt them following a 2-0 shock defeat by the Tswana side in an international friendly match.

Somhlolo brace hero Donald Ngoma has already been ruled out of today’s clash after failing to recover in time from an ankle injury he sustained last Sunday, but his partners in the treatment room, Allen Gahadzikwa and Hardlife Mavundi, were scheduled for late fitness tests yesterday and looked likely to play.

FC Platinum secretary Philemon Muvengwa yesterday stoked the flames, saying today’s match was a mere formality as their sights are already set in the competition’s first round.

“We always play to win and that is our philosophy. We are already looking at the next stage. This preliminary round is now a closed chapter,” said Muvengwa.

In the event Rahman Gumbo’s charges sail past the correctional services side, Sudan’s El Merreikh are lying in wait in the competition’s first round.

Platinum are laden with international experience in captain Zephaniah Ngodzo, Gilbert Banda, Thabani Kamusoko, Khumbulani Banda, Daniel Vheremu, Qadr Amini, Tafadzwa Dube and Ali Sadiki who played in the Champions League with Gunners.
Zimbabwe-born Mamba coach Lloyd Mutasa will lead his side’s attempted comeback.

“You always give your best shot where your bread is buttered. Yes, I am truly Zimbabwean and if I win the nation should be proud that their own son is doing well abroad. If I win it would be a statement to all Zimbabweans that I should be part of the national team set-up in future.

“Who does not want to coach the national team? It would show that I am capable of doing something great for my country if given a chance,” said Mutasa.
“The match will obviously be tough because we are playing a good side. But we came here to win and my players are positive and raring to go. On a good day they are capable of pulling a great result.

“We started with light training when we arrived on Wednesday and had two training sessions on Thursday and we will be training at Mandava today (yesterday),” said Mutasa.

Sihlangu striker Welile Maseko and Macebo Mdluli who scored the two goals for Mambas in the reverse fixture can also trouble FC Platinum if not closely monitored.