By Robson Sharuko
RAHMAN GUMBO was feted like a king at the Harare International Airport yesterday, after a successful adventure into the kingdom of Swaziland, and the coach will be hoping for similar scenes when he returns with the Warriors from Burundi next week.
Gumbo and his men returned home to a heroes’ welcome, from the FC Platinum fans, amid chaotic scenes of delirium at Harare International Airport, following their sensational 4-2 victory over Green Mamba in their Champions League opener in Swaziland.
A public address system, mounted on the back of a lorry, provided the sound bites, with the disc jockey playing a special song composed for FC Platinum, as the fans danced and mobbed their heroes just outside the arrivals’ lounge at the airport.
The biggest cheer was reserved for Gumbo, dressed in a branded FC Platinum black suit, identical to the one worn by each and every member of his squad, after the veteran coach inspired his team to a fairy-tale start to life in the Champions League.
The Harare Chapter of the FC Platinum Supporters’ Club, led by Fortune “Giant” Bgwoni and Tendai Makoni, organised the reception for their team.
But while FC Platinum players will now switch their focus to the final of the Bob ‘88 Cup against Hwange on Sunday, with club president Nathan Shoko challenging them to win the trophy at all costs, Gumbo will be plotting a different mission altogether.
The veteran coach goes into camp today with the Warriors as he begins preparations for the 2013 Nations Cup qualifier against Burundi next Wednesday.
Gumbo is the caretaker coach of the Warriors, after being asked by Zifa to take charge of the team in this crucial game, as the association continues its house-cleaning exercise to bring an end the dark chapter of the Asiagate match-fixing scandal.
With the match against Burundi set for next Wednesday, it means Gumbo is now just likely to join his FC Platinum squad a day before their Champions League preliminary round, second leg tie against Green Mamba at Mandava.
But, having led his troops to a 4-2 victory that all but guaranteed them a place in the first round, Gumbo eased the burden that could have been exerted on him — given his national team commitments — had FC Platinum needed to overturn a deficit in the second leg.
With the Zvishavane miners now carrying a healthy first leg lead, and with a home game to play, it means that Gumbo can afford the luxury of leaving the Champions League preparations to his trusted lieutenant, Tendai Chikuni, with the head coach joining his troops a day before the game.
Gumbo told The Herald that it was an honour to be given a chance to coach his national team again and was looking forward to the test against Burundi just a few days after helping FC Platinum pass their Champions League test.
“We are starting camp tomorrow (today) and we are expecting guys to be in camp but we have a problem, obviously, with the foreign-based players given that some have matches on Wednesday and others have matches at the weekend,” said Gumbo.
“We should start seeing the foreign-based players start coming into camp, maybe, by Sunday. The good thing is that they are all active at their teams and are playing games which, to me, is good because it’s all part of preparing for the national team game.
“But we will see how it goes but we should be ready by the time that we play the game on Wednesday.”
Gumbo reiterated that his mandate was to lead the Warriors in this one match against Burundi in Bujumbura and he will pass the baton to someone else by the time the second leg is played here.
“I’m only there for this one game and that’s the request that I got from Zifa and we will see how it goes but you know I have my other full-time commitments at Platinum,” said Gumbo.
With legendary Warriors’ forward, Peter Ndlovu, set to join the senior national side technical team, as one of the assistant coaches by virtue of being the Under-23 coach, Gumbo also discussed the possibility of working in tandem with the Flying Elephant. “I think, as the Under-23 coach, it’s automatic that Peter comes in as an assistant coach in the national team,” said Gumbo.
“But I will get more clarification when I sit down with the Zifa board and we will see who is in and who is not. I have no problem working with anyone, though, because I think this is national duty and everyone has to play a part.”
Ndlovu last week said the Warriors could rise again, drawing inspiration from Zambia’s sensational triumph in the 2012 Nations Cup, and rallied on the nation to support the players and the coaching staff that has been appointed to handle the various portfolios.
The former Zimbabwe skipper, the most successful Warriors’ captain of all-time after leading his country to two Nations Cup appearances, also said veteran forward, Benjani Mwaruwari, still had a role to play in the team. Benjani quit international football two years ago after a goalless draw at home against Cape Verde.
There has been fervent speculation that Benjani was set to bounce back into the Warriors this week, fuelled by the England-based forward scheduled return home last night, but the Portsmouth forward said he had not yet changed his mind to retire from international football.
Benjani is in the country to prepare for his testimonial, which is expected to bring in a galaxy of international football stars to Zimbabwe this year, and is set to be in the country for the next three days. But all eyes will be on Gumbo, when he returns to the Warriors’ fold, exactly eight years after he left the team following a 0-3 World Cup qualifier defeat at home against Nigeria.
Gumbo has certainly turned into a better coach, since then, winning league championships in Malawi and Botswana and coming close to leading FC Platinum to league title honours last year.
The veteran coach will start his new Warriors’ spell with a spring in his step after he guided FC Platinum to an impressive victory in Swaziland on Sunday in the Zvishavane side’s first Champions League game.
Gumbo saluted his troops again yesterday, saying they surpassed expectations, with a dream first half show in which, with better accuracy in front of goal, could have reaped them at least half-a-dozen goals.
“I think the boys were impressive,” said Gumbo. “Yes, you can say they surpassed our expectations because, if you look at our first half performance, we were brilliant and we deserved more than four goals in that half alone.
“When you consider that this was the first game for the boys together, and you look at the stage, I think they did very well and while we have to do some work on our defence, it’s looking good.”
Zimbabwe international striker Donald “Dombo” Ngoma scored twice to cap a match-winning performance as he led FC Platinum from the front in their four-goal harvest in Swaziland. New signing Allan Gahadzikwa and Ali Sadiki, who was impressive in his debut match for FC Platinum, scored the other goals.