FC Platinum coach Rahman Gumbo reckons his vast experience in the rough terrain of African football will inspire his side to sail past Sudanese reigning champions El Merreikh in the Caf Champions League first round.
The platinum miners on Saturday routed Swazi champions Green Mamba 4-0 in the competition’s preliminary round at Mandava Stadium, to claim a convincing 8-2 aggregate score line following a 4-2 win away in Mbabane a fortnight ago.
A Charles Sibanda brace and other goals from Joel Ngodzo and talismanic midfielder Allen Gahadzikwa saw Platinum booking a first round date with the Sudanese giants whose players comprise a large share of that country’s national team.
The first leg will be played at Mandava on the weekend of March 23-25, while the return Leg is set for the El Merreikh Stadium two weeks later.
With the Sudanese giants likely to present what could be a rough ride for Platinum’s debut campaign in the continental club competition, Gumbo believes his understanding of the African game will come in handy.
“Of course El Merreikh are far different from Green Mamba and they will be more challenging for us. I know them very well and I have watched them play many times. I am well aware they provide half of their players to the Sudanese (national) team,” said Gumbo.
“But we are in this competition because we are also champions and deserve to compete in it. I know a lot about African football. I am with the national team right now and it is not the first time I have been with the national side. Experience is needed at this stage.
“As for Green Mamba, they offered us good competition and are not that bad although their standard of play is very low.”
His captain Zephania Ngodzo, a veteran of many international expeditions, is also familiar with their Sudanese opponents.
“African club football has changed a bit and it is now more competitive. I played against El Merreikh in the Champions League when I was at Highlanders and we lost to them. But now it is a different ball game and they will find us much better prepared for them. Of course, we beat Mamba by a wide margin,” Ngodzo said.
El Merreikh humbled Bosso 5-1 on aggregate in the Confederations Cup first round in 2008.
FC Platinum also boast a galaxy of players with national team or Champions League experience in Ngodzo, Gilbert Banda, Thabani Kamusoko, Daniel Vheremu, Qadr Amini, Tafadzwa Dube and Ali Sadiki.
Saturday’s game saw Platinum’s chief striker being sidelined by injury and lone striker Mitchelle Katsvairo labouring fruitlessly, prompting midfielders to come to the party.
“I am not worried at all that all our goals came from the midfielders. According to our philosophy, we do not solely rely on strikers for goals. Our strikers are only target players while the midfielders do the donkey work,” said Gumbo.
Gumbo sympathised with his opposite number Lloyd Mutasa
“I feel sorry for Lloyd. He joined his team at the wrong time. He had less than a week to prepare for the second leg and the results for him are not that good.”
Mutasa blamed their defeat on little experience.