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The Wardrobe, a dance with Redknapp and a battle to remain in the CAF Confederation Cup

By Eddie Chikamhi

They have a rich history in world football, as the club that gave the game its Wardrobe, giant midfielder Papa Bouba Diop.

LET’S ROCK AND ROLL . . . Norman Mapeza (centre) will once again lead his FC Platinum side in search for success, in a CAF inter-club match, when they host their Senegalese counterparts in a Confederation Cup match at the National Sports Stadium tomorrow
LET’S ROCK AND ROLL . . . Norman Mapeza (centre) will once again lead his FC Platinum side in search for success, in a CAF inter-club match, when they host their Senegalese counterparts in a Confederation Cup match at the National Sports Stadium tomorrow

The big man who, at the 2002 World Cup finals, scored the goal which powered Senegal to a shock 1-0 win over defending champions, France.

Three goals at that tournament, topping the scoring charts for his country as he helped power the Teranga Lions into the quarter-finals, transformed him into a star around the world.

“They called him the Wardrobe, he was so big you couldn’t move him. He was a big colossus — you wouldn’t want to play against him,’’ Harry Redknapp, who managed him at English side, Portsmouth, told BBC Sport.

“I was very lucky to have managed such a fantastic boy — he was special.

“He did a great job for me at Portsmouth and I think the Portsmouth fans loved him.

“He was so powerful — a giant of a man. He would run all over you, was great in the air and he could pass. He was just a special talent.’’

Sadly, Diop died, on November 29, last year, after a long illness, in France.

He was just 42.

His funeral in Dakar, on December 4, before his burial in his hometown, attracted the attendance of Senegalese President, Macky Sall, and many of his teammates from the 2002 World Cup team.

That the Wardrobe would make the grade, and play for Redknapp, is something that is unlikely to have gone unnoticed by Norman Mapeza.

Two years before Diop introduced himself to the globe, at the 2002 World Cup, Mapeza appeared to have sealed a move to West Ham, then under Redknapp’s guidance.

But, he lost out on a jackpot, of about £2 million, with the Hammers having offered him an average annual wage of about £451 000, plus additional earnings, in bonuses.

Why?

Because the British Home Office, somehow, could not grant him a work permit.

Instead, he ended up playing for Austrian side, SV Reid, and Turkish side Malatyaspor.

Mapeza knows, in this game, there’s a thin line that divides success, and failure, a breakthrough or a disappointment.

Maybe, that is why, as his FC Platinum prepares to face ASC Jaraaf, the club which gave the world the Wardrobe, Mapeza has been telling his men they have to seize their moment.

In this game, you never know who is watching, and every opportunity should be grabbed with both hands because it could mean a chance, for a breakthrough, to a bigger league.

FC Platinum host the Senegalese giants in a CAF Confederation Cup play-off match at the National Sports Stadium tomorrow.

“I have watched the videos of their recent games. They are a very good side, one of the top sides in Senegal,’’ Mapeza told The Saturday Herald.

“They are a quality side and it’s all up to us to put everything into this game.

“Like I said before, it’s all about scoring goals. We just have to concentrate for the whole 90 minutes, and see what happens.

“We have been doing some video analysis, with the boys, so that they understand their strengths and weaknesses.

“They have some guys that are really tall. They looked a threat on set-pieces.’’

Maybe, in the current AS Jaraaf side, there is the next Wardrobe.

It’s a club still seized with grief but Mapeza and his men simply must do their business, for their sake, and for the sake of their country.

The match will be played behind closed doors at the National Sports Stadium tomorrow.

It will be broadcast live on ZBC television while the Zvishavane club will also live stream the match on their Facebook page.

The platinum miners have indicated they are ready for the battle in this crucial first leg encounter.

However, Mapeza is concerned about the fitness of the pair of Rahman Kutsanzira and William Stima, who picked up knocks, last week.

“We have got some few injuries, Rahman Kutsanzira and William Stima,’’ Mapeza said yesterday.

“They got injured last week.

“We will see what will happen on Saturday (today), when we hold our last training session.

“But chances are high that they won’t get involved in this game.”

Defender Stima, who scored a rare goal in FC Platinum’s 2-0 win over Costa do Sol of Mozambique, in the preliminary round of the Champions League, had appeared on the mend.

He shook off another injury he sustained in December.

Stima also missed the previous outing, when the platinum miners fielded a makeshift defence, and lost 0-4 to Tanzania’s Simba SC in Dar es Salaam.

The other central defender, Lawrence Mhlanga, had been ruled out after he, and four other players, tested positive for Covid-19.

But, in experienced hands like Gift Bello, Silas Songani, Ralph Kawondera, Raphael Muduviwa, Kelvin Madzongwe and goalkeeper and captain Petros Mhari, Mapeza has the arsenal to help him make the best of home advantage.

The coach has emphasised the need for his team to score as many goals as they can at home.

A victory, without conceding a goal at home, would be to their advantage.

The narrow victory margin at home, against Simba SC in the Champions League, proved their downfall as the Tanzanians went on to use every dirty trick, in the book, to overturn the scores in the second leg.

ASC Jaraaf are the biggest team in their country.

They are perennial campaigners in Africa, having won a record 12 domestic league titles, and 15 cup competitions in Senegal.

The Dakar-based outfit are coming into the match after a promising league campaign at home.

They have won their last three matches, on the bounce, to assume pole position after six rounds.

Their midfielder and vice-captain, El Hadj Madicke Kane, was named the Player of the Month in Senegal.

They earned their place in the Confederation Cup group play-offs after edging fellow West Africans, FC San Pedro, of Cote d’Ivoire, in the first round.

The teams were inseparable, after the two-legged first round tie, had ended in a 2-2 stalemate.

Despite losing the first leg 0-1, Jaraaf pulled through on away goals rule, courtesy of the 2-1 away win, in the second leg, thanks to the goals from Albert Lamane Diene and Makhtar Ndiaye.

They had also beaten Kano Pillars of Nigeria 3-1, in controversial circumstances, in the preliminary round.

ASC Jaraaf have not made it a secret they would want to go all the way. Ahead of their arrival in Harare on Wednesday, they sent their former captain and technical director, Amadou Diop, known as ‘’Boy Bandit,’’ to scrounge for information in Zimbabwe and prepare logistics for the team. The Herald

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