BY Kevin Mapasure
For a long time, the big Harare derby featuring Dynamos and Caps United, the DeMbare, Highlanders clash as well as the Green Machine battles with Bosso, monopolised billboard status in football.
Matches featuring the big three have been the most anticipated and attended of all the local clashes. Overtime, a few teams have tried to break into the elite group. However, their efforts were never enduring.
But with the emergence of platinum money that has given birth to FC Platinum and Ngezi Platinum Stars, as well as Chicken Inn taking football seriously, the landscape has changed.
What has not changed is that Highlanders, Caps United and Dynamos are still the most supported teams in the country, but theirs are not the only clashes that provide enthralling football entertainment.
The clash between FC Platinum and Chicken Inn this afternoon is another reminder of how the rest have made strides in their bid to attain giant status.
FC Platinum have managed to attract a sizeable fan base, while Chicken Inn are still struggling in that regard, hailing from a city where they seem not to care for anyone else except Highlanders, the defunct Zimbabwe Saints and to an extent, Dynamos.
But each time FC Platinum and Chicken Inn collide, one is almost assured of a compelling contest and this afternoon’s clash should be no exception as the two well-resourced sides test each other’s strengths in the Castle Lager Premier Soccer League at Luveve stadium.
This is a meeting of two teams many believe are title contenders, with Dynamos and Highlanders slowly slipping out of the equation so early into the season.
For Chicken Inn and FC Platinum, this is the one match to place a marker and gauge their true strength.
FC Platinum, who beat Chicken Inn back-to-back last season, would delight at giving the hosts their second defeat of the season, while the Joey Antipas-coached side will fight to inflict a first defeat on Norman Mapeza’s side.
Antipas and Mapeza are two of Zimbabwe’s finest tactical minds and when they come against one another, the result is almost always high value entertainment.
The two teams do not only like winning, but like winning in style, setting the scene for an absorbing contest.
The recent Highlanders and Caps United match produced some quality entertainment though it ended in a nil-all draw.
Both coaches have respect for one another, but have declared their intentions of running away with all three points this afternoon.
“Our target of collecting maximum points remains in every game we play,” Mapeza said. “It’s a huge game for us. Chicken Inn had a good start in their first games, but of course they lost to Ngezi Platinum last weekend. But overall they have been playing good football. This means we have to be at our best… (to) collect maximum points. They (Chicken Inn) have shown their intentions of winning the league championship, hence we have to be strong both mentally and physically,” he added.
On the other hand, Antipas knows what he is coming up against.
“It is going to be an epic battle. It is a new season and we are ready and prepared for FC Platinum. They are the champions and are a good side, so we have to up our game. And if they (FC Platinum) have any ambitions of winning, they will have to be up to it. They are the team to beat,” Antipas said.
The two teams are probably the strongest on paper after some astute signings on the transfer market.
Chicken Inn have been enjoying the fruits of the pre-season transfer, particularly with striker Clive Augusto in sparkling form.