Alarm bells toll for FC Platinum

BY Kevin Mapasure

AND so in the end FC Platinum floundered, again, where many had tipped them to break the jinx. For FC Platinum, the 2020-21 Caf Champions League escapade is yet another sad chapter of a continuing sorry story in this competition.

Their ambition is to conquer Africa one day, but on current evidence that day may be far too off.

This year, the brief was to improve on a paltry total of three points from two editions in the group stages of the competition, yet they were bundled out in earlier vetting stages.

Over the two previous editions, they were developing a habit of at least reaching the group stages and were hoping to build on that foundation to reach the knockout stages, yet they fell further short.

They will miss out on a big pay cheque and they will miss out on rubbing shoulders with the content’s creme de la creme.

No matter how one chooses to look at the platinum miner’s 4-1 aggregate defeat to Tanzania’s Simba SC, particularly the second leg 4-0 defeat, this was an embarrassing result.

To start with, the 4-0 drubbing on Wednesday came against Simba SC, a side which is by no means a football giant in Africa.

This was only Simba SC from Tanzania, not Esperance of Tunisia, or Al Ahly of Egypt or Sundowns and not even TP Mazembe.

Their biggest achievement on the continent was finishing as runners-up in the Caf Cup in 1993.

Only recently, they were eliminated from the Champions League by UD Songo of Mozambique.

Facing Simba in the two-legged tie should be by no means an ominous task, they are a side also trying to make a mark in the premier continental competition.

Yes, they are an ambitious side, but so are FC Platinum and a 4-0 drubbing by a small team from Tanzania should be unacceptable for the Zimbabwean champions.

FC Platinum have their sympathisers, some are pointing out to the late changes in the team, forced by the late communication of five COVID-19 positive results among players. Others are accusing match officials of bias towards the home side.

The first argument is a point, but only to a certain extent because such setbacks are the perils of the pandemic era.

FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza took with him 23 players to Dar es Salaam and he still had 18 to call upon after five had been ruled out.

Even after losing Petros Mhari, Ransome Pavari, Silas Songani, Lawarence Mhlanga and Eli Ilunga, FC Platinum should still have given a better fight.

On the other hand, to blame match officials is akin to clutching at straws.

The first penalty that led to the opening goal was a genuine infringement in the penalty box and even the FC Platinum diehards would fail to argue against the referee’s decision.

Maybe for the second goal there was a hint of an offside, but there was no question about the last two goals.

Such is football, there is always room for human error. It is always difficult to sustain an argument that match officials might have influenced the match where only, but one of the four goals was questionable.

Every sound of the whistle seemed to be infuriating FC Platinum players and they seemed to have lost it, seemingly believing that the world had conspired against them.

Yet at 2-0, they were still in with a good chance as a single goal for them would have given them the advantage.

A mere perusal of the results from other matches in this round would leave any Zimbabwean football fan ridden with embarrassment.

Only three teams, FC Platinum, Young Buffaloes of Eswathini and Nigeria’s Sonidep, who were thrashed 4-0 by Al Ahly, conceded above three in the second legs.

Even Botswana’s Jwaneng Galaxy lost 3-1 to Sundowns, who are ranked among the continental heavyweights.

For a club like FC Platinum, who reached the groups stages in the last couple of editions, to see their defensive barriers getting breached four times by a team not even among Africa’s best should be a cause for concern and alarm bells should toll very loud.

If such a performance is not alarming, then what is?

Very soon, FC Platinum will start surveying the wreckage from this smashing defeat. Hopefully, they will not dwell too much on the events prior to the match in Tanzania.

They need to look at a number of factors, key among them signings.

FC Platinum brought in a number of players preparing for this competition. They signed especially foreign players, who in the end did not add any value to the team.

What is the point of going out to sign fringe players who can’t command first team places? What is the point of going out to sign bench warmers from Democratic Republic of Congo?

FC Platinum need to revisit their transfer policy and not bring in foreigners for the sake of it.

Eli Ilunga was ruled out after testing positive for coronavirus, but what about Elias Maguri? Even at a time that Mapeza sought goals, he did not even summon the former Simba player.

Teams that make an impact on the continent search for talent far and wide. FC Platinum should invest in quality players both from home and other countries, if they are to make real impact.

Caps United in 2017 didn’t have foreign players in their ranks, they simply had a good squad built on home-grown players and they fared better than what FC Platinum have so far managed.  Even within the borders closed, FC Platinum can still tap into the best talents available and form a team that can make an impact in Africa.

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