By Augustine Hwata
The heat wave that swept across the country last week might have lost some of its fury but the tension ahead of the Mbada Diamonds Cup blockbuster semi-final between Dynamos and FC Platinum is rising with each passing minute. Last week temperatures of over 40 degrees Celsius were recorded in some parts of Zimbabwe but the heat wave has given way to some rains, a breeze here and there and cooler conditions.
But the heat in the domestic Premiership is rising with Zifa being sucked in to act after allegations that some local referees have turned into the 12th players for some of the teams. Interestingly, title chasing FC Platinum have featured prominently in the saga with Shabanie Mine, Gunners and Dynamos all claiming the Moneybags have, of late, been receiving a helping hand from match officials.
FC Platinum have the destiny of the league championship in their hands and their secretary Phil Muwengwa responded with a cry of defiance in which he claimed their accusers were turning into bad losers. FC Platinum’s clash with Dynamos in the Mbada Diamonds Cup semi-final at Barbourfields tomorrow is a huge game with the winners hoping for a psychological boost ahead of the two teams’ meeting in the league.
Veteran Dynamos midfielder Murape Murape stoked the flames ahead of tomorrow’s game when he took aim at FC Platinum with claims that the Premiership newboys were benefiting from sympathetic match officials. The clash tomorrow will certainly not be for the faint-hearted and Zifa have added to the script by inviting foreign referees to handle the match.
Dynamos goalkeeper Washington Arubi, refreshingly, remained calm and focused ahead of the big game. “People are talking about some tension before this game but there is nothing. “We are not going into the game under any pressure and, of course, there is a lot of talk going around concerning the teams and the games.
“If at all there is some pressure then it’s on FC Platinum,” said Arubi. The two teams have met once this season with DeMbare winning their league match at Rufaro on April 13 2-0. Martin Vengesayi and Desmond Maringwa’s goals gave DeMbare the three points but Arubi believes Cup matches are tricky.
“Cup games are very different from the league games,” said Arubi. “We can just take a 1-0 lead early and then defend until the final whistle.
“But the other team can also come back strongly, so we just have to play well. I think we have to take this game like any other match we have played before.”
Defensive linkman Milton Makopa is a doubtful starter as he struggles to shake off injury but Cuthbert Malajila and skipper George Magariro, who also suffered knocks in the last game against Hwange, have recovered to take their places in the team. DeMbare have the youthful enthusiasm in their team, which Gunners used to stretch FC Platinum in their league and cup encounters, and that is where Denver Mukamba could come handy. Gangly striker Rodreck Mutuma returns to the fold after missing the trip to Hwange through suspension.
But the Harare giants will be missing hard-working midfielder Tawanda Muparati, who lost his father. Dynamos team manger Richard Chihoro said the technical team have dropped the player from team. ”Muparati is not going to play because he is attending his father’s funeral,” said Chihoro. FC Platinum are also missing skipper Zephaniah Ngodzo, who was expelled during the quarter-final win over Gunners, and also missed the league tie against Shabanie.
Midfielder Mthulisi Maphosa is also on the sidelines after an indefinite suspension by the club over allegations that he stabbed a man in Bulawayo last month. But despite all the controversy stalking their camp, FC Platinum midfielder Joel Ngodzo, who returns to the ground that he used to call home, said they were focused on winning a double. ”I have played many games at Barbourfields, so in a way I will feel at home.
This is a cup game and anything can happen.
“As we go into the match, our aim is obviously to win but then any result is possible but we just have to fight to win,” said Ngodzo.
The Zimbabwe youth international also scoffed at claims that FC Platinum were using their fat cheque book to influence the results of their matches. ”Some people are lying. If we get a penalty, I think that is part of the game. Our penalties were genuine but it’s obvious that some people see otherwise. But these claims will not distract us. Instead we are now more focused and motivated to win the remaining games,” said Ngodzo.
FC Platinum will welcome coach Rahman Gumbo who missed the Zvishavane derby as he attended his sister’s funeral. Goalkeeper Tafadzwa Dube, who just can’t keep himself out of the headlines either when he is producing match-winning performances or when he is assaulting opponents, is sure to take his place in goals after missing the game against Shabanie.
Benjamin Marere will take on his former teammates after leaving Dynamos under a cloud and he could turn into a key figure tomorrow. But the stability unit in the FC Platinum team has been midfielder Menard Mupera who has defied age to take on the best in the Premiership and still come out on top. The City of Kings is in for a treat tomorrow and the organisers expect a full house, even though Bosso is not playing.
It has been dubbed ‘The Final Before The Final.’ Will it live up to expectations?
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