These are the perils of the coaching profession. You meet one target, the bar is immediately raised and the relief of pressure immediately escapes.
BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
Just a few months after leading FC Platinum to their maiden Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title, which for him came as a relief having toiled without success with the same team two seasons prior, Mapeza returns to the spotlight again as he leads his team into the continental safari.
This expedition is usually without pressure for local coaches considering the talent drain every transfer window, but with Caps United having put in place a blueprint by qualifying and playing well in the Caf Champions League group stages, FC Platinum have demanded the same.
Mapeza admitted at a Press conference on Thursday that the target set by his employers was group stage qualification, although he was quick to say it had nothing to do with Caps’ run.
Yet it will be difficult to escape comparison with Caps, who accounted for TP Mazembe on their way to the group stage where they also illuminated their pool with wins over Egyptian giants Zamalek and USM Alger of Algeria.
If Caps can do it, then why can’t FC Platinum?
Lloyd Chitembwe’s Green Machine seem to have set the benchmark, of which they will also be judged on if they are to return to the same competition in the near future.
FC Platinum’s path is by no means an easy one. If they manage to dispense their first task against Despotivo de Agosto of Angola, they face the prospect of clashing with South African champions Bidvest Wits.
Mapeza admits that the first hurdle itself is a tough one to clear but he has got a plan for it.
The preparations saw them play international friendlies which opened their eyes to the problems in attack where they seem to be too wasteful, something they can ill afford in this kind of competition.
Vice-captain Gift Bello, who has seen battle in the Champions League before during his stint with Dynamos, admitted that the friendly matches, one of which they were thrashed 4-0 by Zanaco, gave them pointers ahead of their clash with the Angolans tomorrow.
“As our coach has indicated, our pre-season was very short, but we made use of the international friendlies. They gave us an opportunity to see where we stand and strengthen our team. They also helped the new players to understand our style of play so it was a practical session where they had a chance to implement what the coaches have been teaching them,” Bello said.
The FC Platinum defender said they were happy to play the first leg away from home.
“It’s an advantage to start away. If we get an away goal, it will be great for us. When they come for the second leg, we will be playing before our home crowd.”
This is the second time FC Platinum will be participating in the prestigious tournament in which they failed to make an impact, bowing out in the first round.
In contrast, the Angolan champions are seasoned campaigners in African football, having made eight appearances in the prestigious tournament, reaching the quarter-finals of the lucrative tournament in 2009.
After domestic success, Mapeza changed his squad in preparation for the more daunting task.
But for this tie, they will probably rely on their stars from last season, among them forwards Rodwell Chinyengetere and Mkhokeli Dube.
FC Platinum have always been a good side defensively and tomorrow Mapeza will be demanding that the team be on its defensive best, hoping for a clean sheet that could set the stage for them when they host the Angolans.