Senior Sports Reporter
THEY have played at home in Bulawayo, and today they will transform Harare into their adopted home.
FC Platinum’s CAF Champions League roadshow has become a truly national event.
Their first assignment in this tournament was at home in Zvishavane, eight years ago, then they were forced to switch to Barbourfields.
Now they are in the capital and, all the time, they are flying the country’s flag in CAF’s premier inter-club tournament.
The National Sports Stadium will provide the stage for their showdown against Mozambique side, Costa do Sol, behind closed doors, this afternoon.
FC Platinum have not hidden their ambition to shake the African establishment.
They also want to transform themselves into a truly Zimbabwean club with a support base throughout the country.
Club president, Fabian Mashingaidze, said he will be guided by the same mission which was being pursued by his predecessor George Mawere.
“I am truly humbled to accept the appointment, as the new president of the club, at a time it has attained a lot of great things,’’ he said when the torch was passed on to him this year.
“I am, likewise, challenged to fill in the shoes of a truly great man (Mawere) who I personally admire and thank for placing the club on a platform so high.
“The 25-year walk of Pure Platinum Play started off in small steps but now these have grown into giant strides.
“I am very humbled to be entrusted with this role as I embrace this huge responsibility.
“I will do so with optimism and hope that together we will reach the unimaginable heights as we strive to reach our vision of becoming a leading football brand in Africa.
“This journey is an all-encompassing mission whose success is dependent upon the support of the entire FC Platinum family.’’
Playing in the capital fits into their vision to spread their wings beyond Zvishavane.
It’s the first time FC Platinum have returned to the giant stadium since they arrived there, in the final game of the domestic season last year, and spoiled CAPS United’s party.
Needing their first win over the Green Machine, in Harare, to win a third league title on the trot, the Zvishavane side did just that with a solid all-round show.
Now, they have converted it into their temporary home, at least, for this Champions League adventure.
History is in their favour.
They carry a 2-1 advantage, following the away win in Maputo, last week.
So far, everything appears to be going according to plan as Zimbabwean clubs rarely struggle, when they square off against opponents, from our eastern neighbours.
Before the trip to Maputo last week, FC Platinum were the last Zimbabwean side to play Mozambican opponents.
They were paired against UD Songo, in the previous campaign, and they prevailed 5-2 on aggregate.
Dynamos also had successful combats with Mozambican opponents in the Champions League.
They eliminated Liga Muculmana from the competition in 2012, four years after being Costa do Sol, and going all the way to reach the semi-finals.
FC Platinum are in control of their own destiny, having scored two away goals in Maputo, last Saturday. They immediately set up camo in Harare where they have been involved in intense training, behind closed doors, under returning coach Norman Mapeza. It has not taken long for Mapeza to re-establish the chemistry with the team, which he guided to two league titles, during his initial five-year marriage, which ended last year in September.
“The message has been to guard against complacency. It’s not going to be easy,’’ said Mapeza.
“Costa do Sol are a very good team and I think they will come here with guns blazing.
“They have got nothing to lose and I am sure they will come looking for those two goals which could allow them to qualify to the next stage.
“So, the message has been clear, let’s guard against complacency.’’
The mandate is to try and take FC Platinum beyond the group stages, for the first time in their history.
The side have managed to maintain continuity, with such players like Petros Mhari, William Stima, Gift Bello, Lawrence Mhlanga, Kelvin Madzongwe, Gift Mbweti, Perfect Chikwende and Tawana Chikore.
New additions like Brian Banda, Ralph Kawondera, Silas Songani, Elias Maguri, and Elian Ilungu, have added to the depth.
The reliable Kawondera, and newboy Elias Maguri from Tanzania, were on target in the first leg in Mozambique.
The match will be played behind closed doors because of the coronavirus health guidelines.
The Zimbabwe champions, however, will streamline the game live on their Facebook page, FC Platinum.net.
The winners are set to face the winner of the match between Nigeria’s Plateau United and Simba Sports Club of Tanzania in the first round.
Costa do Sol have indicated they are in Harare to fight and not just to fulfil a fixture.
Their Portuguese coach, Horácio Goncalves, has welcomed back Mozambican international striker, Telinho, who missed the first leg while recovering from Covid-19.
Telinho, who joined the side from UD Songo last month, tested positive in the outbreak that affected the national team, ahead of the recent AFCON qualifiers.
Telinho held his first training session on Tuesday.
“It was a difficult time, I came to think of the worst because when I tested, it was positive,’’ he said.
“Not being able to play and being confined for a long time is painful.
“But I’m happy to be back. I’m not 100%, I’m not going to lie, but I’m in the mood to fight to win the confidence of my coach and be able to be chosen to be part of the squad for Saturday’s game.”
Zambian referee, Kasokota Kafuli Derrick, has been assigned to handle the match.
He will be assisted by compatriots, Romeo Kasengele and Chiwoyu Kapembwa Sinyangwe, with 2018 World Cup referee, Janny Sikazwe, standing in as the fourth official. The match commissioner is Inacio Manuel Candido from Angola.