By Mtandazo Dube
The journey to seventh heaven and back took Norman Mapeza nearly an hour.
By the time this writer got to him the FC Platinum coach was back on earth, looking like he could not wait to get out of Ascot Stadium.
With the FC Platinum flag wrapped around his shoulders Mapeza appeared to be already contemplating about next season.
Around him the party continued.
Mkhokheli Dube was still running around like he is 24 and not 34, celebrating his fourth league title like it was his first.
Club chairman Dumisani Mtombeni was still hugging everyone and everything with his sons in tow.
Getting the emotions out of Mapeza was a Herculean task, he had been there and done that.
The Premier Soccer League had spoiled the party, barring journalists from accessing the pitch well until after the trophy presentation ceremony.
The first question to Mapeza was about how he felt after finally delivering the one thing FC Platinum could not buy with all their money – a maiden Castle Lager Premier Soccer League title.
“I am shocked,” he claimed.
We both knew he wasn’t.
The FC Platinum gaffer was relieved.
Unlike at Monomotapa where winning the title in 2008 was a “bonus” at Pure Platinum Play Mapeza had no option but to deliver the big one.
The club had given him just about everything he had asked for.
Then Dube zoomed past us again and the sight of his bald head made the writer change the line of questioning.
When you signed Mkhokheli Dube and Takesure Chinyama in midseason many thought you had gone bonkers. Care to share your thinking?
Mapeza was animated again.
“You know what; it’s disrespectful for someone to come to where you are working and accuse you of not knowing what you are doing when they are not experts in that area,” he said before pausing briefly.
Then Mapeza continued: “These guys Mkhokheli and Takkie (Chinyama) gave us a new dimension. Even Ali Sadiki gave us a new dimension.
“It’s not about age but what a player can offer. Those who questioned the signings what are they saying now?”
Doing what he did at Ascot last weekend was the reason why Pure Platinum Play turned to Mapeza after parting ways with Lloyd Mutasa on August 10 2014.
This is one box FC Platinum desperately wanted to tick after seven seasons of heavy investment in the Premiership.
But the journey to landing that big bellied trophy was far from smooth even though.
Along the way Mapeza kissed a few frogs, disastrously signing Makai Kawashu and Agrippa Murimba.
And against such a background his decision to go for Dube and Chinyama raised more than a few eyebrows.
Many queried why he was turning to a couple of players whose combined age was 69 when lads such as Brett Amidu and Brian Muzondiwa were not getting a sniff in the first team.
Amid the furore Chinyama promised to be Pure Platinum Play’s Zlatan Ibrahimovic but the former Dynamos man was nowhere near being that.
Dube, meanwhile, arrived from Bulawayo City without much media frenzy but immediately bowled over his new teammates with a work ethic that belied his age.
The striker’s Chevrolet Captiva was the first at training.
It was usually the last to leave.
Dube was on a mission to repay the faith invested in him by Mapeza.
“It was brave of Norman to sign me,” said the 34-year old striker who won three league titles with Highlanders.
“I knew that we were both under pressure so there was really little time to settle in. I just had to get in there and do my job.
“The boys appreciated what I brought into the dressing room and rallied behind me even when the goals were not coming. We are a family and always happy for each other.”
What happens to Dube and Chinyama after this term is open to speculation but it’s certain that Mapeza will have a few more backers the next time he makes seemingly questionable calls on the transfer market.
As Gift Bello puts it, this gaffer knows what he is doing.
“When you get to understand coach Mapeza’s way you will trust him with your life,” said Bello of his gaffer.
Meanwhile, at the end of it all Mapeza finally admitted that he felt like a ton bricks had just been taken off his shoulders.
“I won the league title with Monomotapa before but this one is a bit special because the pressure was just too much,” he said before driving away with the PSL trophy in the back seat. The Sunday Mail