THREE months ago, FC Platinum were struggling for consistency under Lloyd Mutasa and were not even in the top four equation of the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League race.
But the club’s leadership took the bold decision to fire Mutasa and bring in former Warriors coach Norman Mapeza, who stuttered at first, but then picked up seven points in the last three matches to perch in sixth place with 38 points, level with fifth-placed Hwange and one behind Highlanders.
Perhaps the mere mention of $250 000 Mbada Diamonds Cup did the trick.
This year’s competition will be contested for by the top four teams only, and Platinum will not be content with taking home
$10 000 without kicking the ball.
They want the bigger slice of $50 000.
Mapeza, for now, is just what the doctor ordered for Pure Platinum Play.
And as ZPC Kariba, who are in second position with 47 points and two off leaders Dynamos, come to Mandava Stadium this afternoon, there are less words to describe this encounter than “do-or-die”.
An aura of confidence and invincibility at home, first seen against Dynamos, is evident in the Platinum camp and they believe they have a good chance of disturbing the top order — Highlanders and Hwange being the main targets.
Platinum have reached the final of the Chibuku Super Cup after beating Black Rhinos 1-0 last Saturday, a victory that came after they beat Harare City 2-0 in the league at Rufaro Stadium.
The win over Rhinos was achieved with eight “junior” players, balanced by the experienced trio of skipper Thabani Kamusoko, Zambia international Obrey Chirwa and Benjamin Marere.
Petros Mhari kept goal, the Moyo twins, Kelvin and Elvis, Gift Bello and Raphael Muduviwa formed the backline, while Walter Musona, the eventual scorer, Wisdom Mutasa and Tatenda Dzumbunu completed the line-up.
When the going got tough, Mapeza called on the experience of Donald Ngoma, Simon Shoko and Allen Gahadzikwa.
All these players are available for selection — no suspensions or injuries.
ZPC, on the other hand, are crying foul over the absence of Pride Tafirenyika, who is serving a one-match suspension after accumulating a third yellow card.
The decisive card came from the Triangle match two weeks ago, a match they won 1-0.
Coach Saul Chaminuka is not a happy man.
“To be frank, I am not happy with the referee for the yellow card he gave to Pride during the match against Triangle. Any sane referee would not have given a yellow card for that. I am just going into the match against FC Platinum unhappy over the yellow card given to Pride. He is our key player and a match winner,” Chaminuka said on Wednesday.
Are these signs of pressure? There is no need for that; they have over-achieved and are assured of playing in the Mbada Diamonds Cup and a second year in the top-flight next tear.
On the other hand, Platinum gaffer Mapeza is clear about his mission.
“We are taking this game very seriously because we need to reach the top four. We respect every team in the league. We are always very confident when we play because all the teams are the same,” he told our sister paper Southern Eye yesterday.
Platinum will be without Zambia international defender Aaron Katebe who received a late call-up for today’s international friendly match against Ivory Coast at the National Heroes Stadium in Lusaka.
“We have called Katebe because we are trying to track every Zambian player who is playing well to ensure they get a chance to wear the national jersey. He is doing well and we thought it is good that we have a look at him,” Chipolopolo assistant coach Kampamba Chintu told MTN Football yesterday.