FC PLATINUM coach Norman Mapeza says his club has no excuse for failure in this year’s Caf Champions League.
BY TERRY MADYAUTA/HENRY MHARA
The Zvishavane-based side were handpicked by the Premier Soccer League (PSL) to represent the country in this year’s premier club competition, which will follow a transitional calendar when the Caf club competitions switch from a February-to-November schedule to an August–to-May schedule.
PSL had also extended the invitation to Harare City to represent Zimbabwe in the Caf Confederations Cup, but the Sunshine Boys turned down the offer, leaving FC Platinum with the sole burden to carry the country’s heavy expectations in the African safari.
While the invitation to participate in the champions league came late and after the club had almost concluded their transfer business, Mapeza believes the players at his disposal are still good enough to compete with the continent’s best.
The league champions made just one acquisition in the local transfer market that closed last week, adding Thomas Chideu who joined from South Africa.
They released three players — Brett Amidu, Nigel Papius and Hillary Bakacheza — who were allowed to go out on loan to fellow league teams.
Mapeza is happy with his squad, and knows that quality counts more than quantity in this competition, where he has unbearably fallen short in the few occasions that he took a crack in the continental’s highest club football competition.
“I have confidence in the squad that I have. I may have wanted to rope in one or two players with champions league or international football experience, but I still believe the current squad can compete. It is also a chance for us to gain exposure at a continental level,” he said.
Previously, the Caf Champions League would start when local clubs were in the off-season, which meant that they would struggle for match fitness against their competitors, most of whom would have their leagues running.
But with the new calendar, the matches will start when the local league is still on, a factor that Mapeza believes will work in their favour.
“Our fitness levels will be better comparing to a situation when you participate coming from a lay off at the end of the season,” he reckons.
FC Platinum were active in the January transfer window, but some of the stars they roped in, such as former Dynamos striker Farai Mupasiri, and Zambian import Shadreck Mayembe, have rarely been used.
But Mapeza is likely to be forced to look at them now considering the hectic schedule ahead, where he is also fighting to defend the title which they won last season.
The well-resourced side will be seeking to better their performance in the champions league after they were knocked out by Angolan side Desportivo de Agosto in the preliminary stage early this year.
But before they can think of the big obstacle ahead, they have a little matter of defending their domestic crown, with the tussle on the local front resuming this week after a two-week hiatus.
The break could have come at a good time for Mapeza, whose team looked disjointed in their last three matches before the break.
FC Platinum picked just two points from a possible nine, after a defeat against ZPC Kariba and draws to Yadah and Caps United, a run of form that saw their gap at the top cut to two points.
They travel to struggling Bulawayo City this weekend, a match that looks easy on paper, but potentially a banana skin.