By Langton Nyakwenda
FC Platinum were missing in action when the CAF Champions League mini-league stage kicked off across the continent on Friday, but the Zimbabwe football kings have a chance to redeem themselves in the second-tier competition.
Pure Platinum Play crashed out of the Champions League in the second round at the hands of Tanzanian champions Simba SC.
They dropped into the Confederation Cup, where they face Senegalese side AS Jaraaf for a place in the group stage.
FC Platinum host the 12-time Senegalese champions in the first leg encounter at the National Sports Stadium at 3 pm today.
The match, which will be played in an empty stadium, will be screened live on ZBC TV.
Local football-starved fans have not witnessed league action since December 2019.
The return leg is in Dakar in a fortnight.
But FC Platinum have to make sure they try and seal the game at home, drawing from the harsh lesson they were taught by Simba SC in the Champions League.
Pure Platinum Play posted a narrow 1-0 win at home and went to Tanzania fighting for at least a draw.
It did not go their way as they were walloped 4-0 by Simba SC, albeit in controversial fashion, as five of their players returned positive Covid-19 results.
The team endured some questionable decisions from the referee.
FC Platinum gaffer Norman Mapeza now wants his boys to score goals in today’s encounter.
Mapeza no longer has the talismanic forward Perfect Chikwende, who was snapped by Simba SC, but the Zvishavane side can bank on the experienced duo of 2019 Soccer Star of the Year runner-up Ralph Kawondera and the sleek Silas Songani.
Veteran centre-back Gift Bello is expected to marshal the defence while Kelvin Madzongwe could add some steel in midfield.
FC Platinum might be without William Stima, who is nursing an injury.
They will not have it easy against Jaraaf, who are football giants 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.
Mapeza yesterday insisted they had learnt their lessons well from the debacle in Tanzania.
“Our preparations have gone very well and we only have two guys who are carrying some knocks — that is William Stima and Rahman Kutsanzira, and they are definitely out of tomorrow’s (today) game,” he said.
“We have been watching our opponents’ videos for the past few days, doing some video analysis with the boys; I would like to admit that they are a good side, a quality side and they look very dangerous on set pieces because they have some tall guys.
“But we have been working on it. The guys are raring to go. Above all, I am happy with their commitment and attitude in the past few days.
“We need to maximise on home advantage and the message I have been telling the boys is that we need to score as many goals as we can because in these two-legged tournaments, if you don’t score goals at home, it will be difficult when you play away.’’
He said had his team scored more goals at home against Tanzania’s Simba FC, it would have worked out differently for his team away from home.
Mapeza added: “But with what I saw in Tanzania that cancer is again coming back to African football, and if CAF do not do anything about that, then I do not know where we are really with football in Africa because people cannot take advantage of this Covid-19 situation to get qualification to the next round or to the group stages.
“CAF need to be strict . . . but, like I said, the way for us is to get as many goals as we can when we play at home so that when we play away, we know what to do.
“We learnt the hard way in Tanzania.” The Sunday Mail