By Grace Chingoma
Norman Mapeza says he has some regrets over the way some key refereeing decisions went against his homeless men but won’t mourn over that forever.
Instead, the seasoned gaffer has challenged his FC Platinum troops to take some big lessons, from both their CAF Champions League and Confederation Cup disappointments, this season.
The Zvishavane side crashed out of the Champions League, after a controversial 0-4 hammering, at the hands of Tanzanian giants, Simba SC, in the second leg of their first round battle.
The comprehensive defeat, in Dar es Salaam, came after a number of the club’s regular players could not feature after they tested positive for Covid-19.
FC Platinum officials have insisted there was more than what met the eye, in the way those players were ruled out, amid concern on the continent Covid-19 tests are being used as a weapon by home clubs.
That defeat saw the Zvishavane side, who still have to play their home matches away from their fortress at Mandava, which remains barred by CAF from hosting inter-club matches, slipping into the Confederation Cup.
But a poor showing at the National Sports Stadium, in which they missed a penalty and then blew away a golden chance, towards the end of the match, saw them losing 0-1 to Senegelase giants Jaraaf.
That left them with a mountain to climb, which proved beyond their means, as they lost by a similar scoreline in Senegal.
A 12th minute goal, direct from a free-kick taken by Madické Kane, proved the decisive moment of the second leg.
Still, knowing that two goals for them, would still prove enough, as long as they stopped the hosts from scoring, there was still a window of hope for the platinum miners.
However, their attack has been one of their weakest links and, having failed to score in their last two CAF inter-club matches, including from the penalty spot, they could not overturn the deficit.
Speaking in a post-match press conference, Mapeza said they have to move on from the defeats in the CAF competitions.
FC Platinum have found it difficult to play to their capacity, as they have not enjoyed the benefits that come with regular matches, on the domestic front since the local game came to a halt in March last year.
“We lost the game, it’s a game of football, we will do our homework, wait for the next tournament then we move on,’’ said Mapeza.
“There was nothing wrong with the team, it’s unfortunate in a game of football, every time you lose, you have to pick something.
“But, I am not a coach who picks something after my team loses a game.’’
However, Mapeza said some key decisions, by the match officials, could have created a level playing field, and given his men a chance to compete well.
“I am not happy, of course, but my team played very well, but there were some moments that we felt the arbitrage (French word for refereeing), wasn’t fair to us.
“But, I think that is becoming normal in Africa that whenever you go and play away (from home), you always face these challenges,” said Mapeza.
Mapeza has been clear that the inactivity, which has seen his men only become competitive when they play these CAF matches, has left them at a huge disadvantage.
The domestic Premiership league has been on hold, for over 14 months, since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic.
In contrast, both the Tanzanian, and the Senegalese leagues, have been in full swing.
Simba SC are second in the Tanzanian top-flight league while Jaraaf lead the Senegalese championship, which began in January.
The Dakar-based outfit are vying for a record 13th title
The departure of Jaraaf coach, Malick Daf, who doubled as the Under-17 coach, did not affect the team, who have now booked their place in the group stages.
Senegal legend, Khalilou Fadiga, told the local media that Jaraaf qualification shows football in the West African country was now moving forward, both at national, and club level.
“Whether with the national team, and at club level, it is always a source of pride for me to see Senegal so well represented,’’ he said.
“Jaraaf’s qualification is all the better as they won both the first and second leg. This is really great for Senegal and it is proof that Senegalese football continues to move forward.
“This year, there will be two Senegalese clubs (Teungueth FC in the Champions League and ASC Jaraaf in the CAF Cup) entered in African competitions, 17 years after their last participation.’’
Fadiga is a close friend of former Zimbabwe captain, Benjani Mwaruwari, and it’s likely that the Senegalese legend will spend the next few weeks, mocking the ex-Manchester City forward. The Herald