By Eddie Chikamhi
FC Platinum will have to fight on two fronts, beginning this week, when they embark on the gruelling Champions League business with an away trip to Al Hilal of Sudan.
The platinum miners are scheduled to leave today for their opening match of the group stage against the Sudanese perennial inter-club football campaigners in Omdurman on Friday night.
Lizwe Sweswe and his men, who are involved in a two-horse race with CAPS United in the Castle Lager Premiership, will temporarily shift their attention to the African Safari for the next two weeks.
They face Al Hilal this Friday and then return home to host African champions Esperance of Tunisia a week later.
FC Platinum face a difficult campaign in a group that also features record winners Al Ahly of Egypt.
However, club chairman, Evans Mtombeni, believes the team have picked some priceless lessons in their previous participation in Africa.
They finished bottom of the group at their first attempt in the lucrative mini-league.
“This is a familiar territory. We went there in 2012 when we played El Merrikh, so we are quite aware of what to expect,’’ said Mtombeni.
“This year, our target was to qualify for the group stage and that we have managed to achieve.
“But, what we have to do now is to go the next step by improving on our previous performances.
“Remember, the last campaign was our first in the group stage and we managed to pick only two points from a possible 12.
“The idea is to do better than that, keeping in mind that if we do well in Africa there is a chance CAF will consider adding another representative from Zimbabwe, which will be good for the domestic league.”
FC Platinum will also be keeping an eye on their last two matches in the domestic title race where they play Black Rhinos and log leaders CAPS United in the quest for a third successive league crown.
They need to balance between the domestic league title chase and the Champions League.
They are second on the log standings with a big chance to win a third successive league crown.
CAPS United lead the race with 58 points. But FC Platinum will not rest in December/January when the other local teams embark on the traditional off-season break as they will be shuttling between Zvishavane and North Africa.
They have played non-stop football for the last two seasons and this is when their depth is going to be put to the test.
“There is not much that we could have done about the nature of our opponents. North Africa is a powerhouse when it comes to African football.
“We are quite aware the trips are long and demanding both physically and financially.
“The trips to North Africa calls for our technical team and players to be mentally and physically ready.
“Of course, we have played so much football in the last one and half years but I believe we have some quite experienced players in our group who are leaders in their own right,’’ said Mtombeni.
The platinum miners were expected in Harare last night for a sleepover and then take their flight to Khartoum, Sudan, this afternoon via Addis Ababa.
FC Platinum Squad
Goalkeepers: Petros Mhari, Francis Tizayi, Wallace Magalane
Defenders: Raphael Muduviwa, William Stima, Gift Bello, Lawrence Mhlanga, Tawana Chikore
Midfielders: Devon Chafa, Kelvin Madzongwe, Rodwell Chinyengetere, Guyve Mawete Nsiala, Never Tigere, Rahman Kutsanzira, Rainsome Pavari, Keith Madera, Hagiazo Magaya, Charles Sibanda
Strikers: Mkhokheli Dube, Albert Eonde, Gift Mbweti. The Herald