When FC Platinum and Orlando Pirates collide in a blockbuster Group B Confederation of African Football Champions League encounter, it will not only be about this match being a Southern Africa derby that whets appetite, but the purity of both teams’ play heightens anticipation.
BY Kevin Mapasure / FORTUNE MBELE
A lot has been said over the week, especially with Madinda Ndlovu claiming that Zimbabwean players were more talented and skilled than South Africans and such arguments will probably be settled at Barbourfields Stadium this afternoon.
Zimbabwe’s best, taking on one of South Africa’s best at Barbourfields, will see fans bouncing at the prospect of such high quality entertainment.
This is one clash where both teams know what to expect from each other, but what they will do about it is what makes this match one of the most anticipated.
It has the feel of the Caps United versus TP Mazembe match in 2017 about it, and it certainly matches the profile and hopefully the entertainment value.
Both will seek a fast start, especially FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza’s side considering they will be playing at home and the ever demanding former Warriors coach is optimistic of celebrations afterwards.
His tactical wits are pitted against one of the shrewdest tacticians working on the continent in Serbian, Milutin Sredojevic, who knows almost everything about Zimbabwean football and its culture.
Isn’t this prettily poised?
Throw in Kuda Mahachi and Marshall Munetsi, two of the local boys who will be coming out of the away dressing room this afternoon, then one is almost guaranteed of a memorable occasion.
Even the dry fuel taps are failing to suck the life out of this contest as Zimbabweans are promising to travel from different parts of the country to witness a spectacle.
Mapeza is looking to prime his boys, who do not normally get the multitudes at Barbourfields Stadium, by singing their praises, to thrive in the occasion.
“It’s a massive game for us as a club, for me as a coach and the players. We are playing at the highest level of African football. If you talk of European football, you are talking of the Champions League. So this is the apex of African football and we just need to enjoy the experience we are in now. I hope that come tomorrow (today) at 5pm; we will be talking of good news,” Mapeza said.
Mahachi and Munetsi naturally fall under the spotlight as they return home, but focus for Mapeza’s team will not be on those as Pirates have other dangerous weapons in their armoury.
Mahachi may even find himself on the bench as he is still settling in at Pirates and Mapeza is not thinking about the former Highlanders star alone.
“I am not worried about individuals. The only player I could say I would be worried about is Lionel Messi and not anybody who is coming from this side.
We don’t concentrate on individuals as a club; we concentrate on the whole team. Kuda won’t play alone. If we are going to think about Kuda alone then we are not coaches, let alone footballers,” Mapeza said.
Orlando Pirates love to pass the ball around, but facing FC Platinum away from home, who themselves are the masters of football purity in Zimbabwe, it will be interesting to see how the South African side will approach this one.
While Mapeza’s side will be looking to pass their opponents to death, they know they have an extra weapon in an expected large crowd at Barbourfields Stadium this afternoon, and the platinum miners are looking forward to thrill the fans.
“So far so good, I cannot complain. People here (Bulawayo) received us very well. To those who are coming in to support us, I say thank you in advance and for those supporting the opponents its football and its normal all over the world. But the most important thing for us is to deliver; get a positive result for whoever is coming to give us that maximum support.”
They have since lost Rodwell Chinyengetere and will be looking to see another star player emerging from the ranks.
Striker Lameck Nhamo finds himself under the spotlight, having come in after the 2018 season from Triangle.
Mapeza has got other potential sources of goals to look to such as Rahman Kutsanzira and Gift Mbweti.
Inspirational defender Kelvin Moyo is set to return to the starting lineup, but the platinum miners would also have loved to have new signing and striker Edmore Chirambadare, who returned home after an unsuccessful stint in South Africa, on the bench.