By Langton Nyakwenda
You have to give it to them.
From the onset they looked like they wanted it more and in the end it was 10-man FC Platinum who etched their name in Zimbabwean football’s folklore at the National Sports Stadium yesterday.
It had to be the unheralded Perfect Chikwende who delivered the perfect hat-trick of league titles for the Zvishavane side who now comfortably sit on the same table with Dynamos and Highlanders as the only teams to have achieved such a feat.
The pint-sized forward grabbed the decisive goal on the hour with a first time shot that confused CAPS United goalkeeper Tonderai Mateyaunga and silenced the vociferous Makepekepe fans housed in the famous Bay 14.
A journey that was started by Norman Mapeza was completed by his erstwhile assistant Lizwe Sweswe and the former must be smiling from his new base at Chippa United in South Africa.
Many doubted Sweswe’s capacity, given the big shoes he was filling, but yesterday the former Tsholotsho gaffer delivered the sucker-punch that left the green half of the capital city greening with envy.
“Yes people will doubt me and say whatever they want to say, but I have been in this industry for a long time. It’s not my first time to be in this kind of scenario (pressure),” an elated Sweswe told the media soon after the final whistle.
Doubters or no doubters, Sweswe guided FC Platinum to the 2019 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League championship podium and he showed some tactical nous as he outwitted his opposite number Darlington Dodo.
Dodo was tipped by many to carry the day for Makepekepe.
History and statistics favoured CAPS United.
Makepekepe had never lost to Pure Platinum Play in Harare since 2011 when the Zvishavane side made their debut top-flight season.
In fact, CAPS United had lost once to their opponents in the 17 meetings since 2011 and all seemed to point to a Makepekepe party.
They walked into the National Sports Stadium as potential champions, but after the final whistle they walked away not even as silver medallists, but as the third best team following Chicken Inn’s emphatic 4-1 victory over TelOne at Barbourfields.
It would have been an embarrassing scoreline had FC Platinum not squandered numerous chances that came their way in the first half.
Rodwell Chinyengetere had a chance after only 50 seconds, but the former Soccer Star of the Year headed meekly after he was set up by DR Congo import Guyve Nsiala who turned villain when being red-carded at half time for assaulting referee Prince Matumo of Bulawayo.
Chikwende raced away from an otherwise disorganised CAPS defence in the 14th minute, but his shot went over.
Chinyengetere’s glancing header off a corner, was saved on the line by an alert Mateyaunga three minutes later.
CAPS’ real chance came after 36 minutes when Blessing Sarupinda squeezed a shot that was dealt with by an impressive Francis Tizayi.
In the end, it was FC Platinum who ruled and they did it in style.
As the Pure Platinum Play players danced to the 2010 World Cup song by Shakira — Waka Waka (This Time for Africa), local football historians were recording another statistic.
FC Platinum became the third club to win a hat-trick of league titles in the history of Zimbabwe’s top flight football.
Dynamos were the first, when they won four league titles from 1980 to 1983.
Highlanders then replicated the feat between 1999 and 2002 before Dynamos did it again under the record breaking Kalisto Pasuwa from 2011 to 2014.
“It was a tough match, we came here knowing it was going to be a match. But we knew we had the experience, we did not want a draw, and we wanted an outright win.
“We came here to attack, that was the key and it worked for us,” said the FC Platinum coach, Sweswe.
The moment those models hired by the Premier Soccer League started trickling down from the VVIP Stand, holding flowers, with five minutes to go and CAPS United trailing, it was clear the championship was heading to Zvishavane again.
When Makepekepe conceded a corner in the 94th minute, when they were supposed to be attacking, it was clear their coach Dodo had lost this battle.
Dodo tried to play his cards though.
Sensing that his side lacked the attacking guile, he threw in Dominic Chungwa for the defensive Dominic Mukandi and Ronald Chitiyo for Kelvin Ndebele in the last 30 minutes of the game.
He also sent on John Zhuwawu for skipper Hardlife Zvirekwi after 71 minutes, but still the Harare giants could not penetrate the Zvishavane miners.
In the end, it was so near, yet so far for CAPS United who finished the race with 58 points, four behind FC Platinum and one behind Chicken Inn.However, Dodo refused to bury his head into the sand.
“It’s heartbreaking, after all the good effort that we put from the beginning of the season up to today and its very unfortunate that we have failed to achieve what we wanted to achieve on the last day,” said Dodo.
“The boys tried to give their best, we did not really rise to the expectations that we wanted. There were times when we were really vulnerable, and also when we got possession we quickly lost it again, it cost us a lot.
“But, I will encourage the boys, they had a very good season, it’s unfortunate, it’s one of those things. As much as we wanted to win the league, maybe God had other plans for us.
“These boys have given a lot for the team, they have given a lot for me as well. They have done their part, it’s unfortunate we lost but we didn’t want to,” said Dodo.
His employer Farai Jere seemed to throw his weight behind Dodo.
“It’s something which was expected that the league would go either way. FC Platinum are a competitive team, they have been playing in the Champions League, and you could see their experience.
“He did very well, if you look at where he (Dodo) took the team from. If he was not a competent coach, he could have crumbled long back.
“He did very well, he won very critical matches and he gave us the hope. He gave us all this excitement which we had today,” said Jere.
Perhaps the CAPS United family will look back at two games – the 2-2 draw against Yadah Stars in November and the 1-1 draw against Herentals in October as the moments when they lost it.
But, that is a story for another day.
For now, Fc Platinum midfielder Devon Chafa can enjoy his seventh league medal and he is the only one to have achieved that feat in the local Premiership.
“Firstly I want to thank God, but we do this as a team. We have been travelling for the past two years, we haven’t rested.
“I want to thank everyone, Dynamos for those titles and Caps for that one title,” said Chafa.
He won four with Dynamos, one with CAPS United and now two with FC Platinum.
FC Platinum skipper Gift Bello hinted at retirement in his moment of glory.
“I will see how it goes, maybe I will play another season and then see from there,” he said.
CAPS United: T. Mateyaunga, S. Masunda, J. Jangano, H. Zvirekwi (J. Zhuwawu 71st), D. Mukandi (D. Chungwa 62nd), J. Ngodzo, P. Bamusi, B. Sarupinda, K. Ndebele (R. Chitiyo 65th), N. Sianchali, V. Musarurwa
FC Platinum: F. Tizayi, R. Muduviwa, G. Bello, W. Stima, T. Chikore, K. Madzongwe, N. Tigere (H. Magaya 89th), R. Chinyengetere, G. Mbweti, G. Nsiala, P. Chikwende (R. Pavari 68th). The Sunday Mail