By Innocent Kurira
FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza implored his players to give just 30 percent of what they had worked on ahead of their Caf Champions League first round first-leg match against Mozambican side Costa Do Sol last month.
His charges probably gave him more than he’d asked for and the platinum miners sailed through to the second round of the preliminaries in which they take on Tanzanian champions Simba SC on the weekend of December 22-23.
Mapeza made a dramatic return to FC Platinum just a week before their Champions League tie after Pieter de Jongh was sacked following Caf’s pronouncement that no coach without a Caf A could sit on the bench.
De Jongh doesn’t possess a Caf A badge.
Mapeza led Pure Platinum Play to a 2-1 win over Costa Do Sol in Maputo before finishing them off 2-0 in Harare to cap a beautiful re-union.
However, the impending encounter with Simba SC should certainly be a different kettle of fish altogether following their ejection of Nigeria’s Plateau United in the first preliminary round, winning 1-0 in Abuja and securing a goalless draw in Dar es Salaam on Saturday.
Besides Mapeza being with his team for less than a month, his players have only returned to the field of play after a full season of inactivity.
Their opponents never had any lockdown in their country and the Tanzanian league has been in full swing.
That should give the Tanzanian side a slight advantage over the Zvishavane-based outfit, as fitness wise Simba SC are expected to be in better shape than the Zimbabwe champions.
The game in Tanzania is likely to be played in front of a cheering crowd, while fans will not be allowed into the National Sports Stadium in Harare.
Caf allowed up to 50 percent fans of stadium capacity to attend the Caf Champions League home games and Caf Confederation Cup home games for Simba.
That should give an extra advantage to the Tanzanian champions, but FC Platinum communications officer Chido Chizondo said as much as they’d have loved to have fans backing them in Harare, they would not be affected much, as they’ll approach the away game in the same manner they’ll approach the home game.
“The plans remain the same. We have been keeping our players and administration in a bio-bubble and that is how we intend to operate when we travel away. We will continue to operate as if we are in the Covid-19 situation in Tanzania as well,” Chizondo said.
Caf Champions League first-round
fixtures in full:
Stade Malien (Mali) vs Wydad Casablanca (Morocco)
Teungueth (Senegal) vs Raja Casablanca (Morocco)
RC Abidjan (Ivory Coast) vs Horoya AC (Guinea)
AS Sonidep (Niger) vs Al Ahly SC (Egypt)
Al Ahly Benghazi (Libya) vs Esperance de Tunis (Tunisia)
Gazelle (Chad) vs Zamalek SC (Egypt)
AS Bouenguidi (Gabon) vs TP Mazembe (DR Congo)
Jwaneng Galaxy (Bostawna) vs Mamelodi Sundowns (South Africa)
Young Buffaloes (eSwatini) vs AS Vita Club (DR Congo)
Kaizer Chiefs (South Africa) vs Primeiro de Agosto (Angola)
Al Merrikh (Sudan) vs Enyimba (Nigeria)
Asante Kotoko (Ghana) vs Al Hilal (Sudan)
MC Alger (Algeria) vs SC Sfaxien (Tunisia)
Nkana (Zambia) vs Petro de Luanda (Angola)
FC Platinum (Zimbabwe) vs Simba SC (Tanzania)
CR Belouizdad (Algeria) vs Gor Mahia (Kenya). The Chronicle.