Sikhumbuzo Moyo, Senior Sports Reporter
FC Platinum arrived in Bulawayo yesterday ahead of their crucial Caf Champions League preliminary round second-leg tie against Nyasa Big Bullets of Malawi at Barbourfields Stadium tomorrow.
The first-leg ended goalless, but the Zimbabwe champions must conjure an outright win against former Warriors’ coach Callisto Pasuwa’s men, who left Blantyre by road on Wednesday.
Any other result other than a win for Pure Platinum Play will see them bowing out of the tournament, but having tasted the sweetness of the group stages in the last version of the tourney, Norman Mapeza’s boys won’t entertain the idea of being knocked out.
The Zvishavane-based platinum miners have also mastered the art of grinding results when least expected. They will, however, be without three key players, Tawana Chikore, Evidence Tendai and reigning Soccer Star of the Year Rodwell Chinyengetere, who also were last minute withdrawals in the first-leg.
“I think there was a miscommunication between Caf, ourselves and Zifa on the registration of the said players. So even for the second-leg they are not available, but should we proceed, as we expect, then they will start playing,” said FC Platinum media and liaison officer Chido Chizondo.
Pure Platinum Play, who lost a number of key players in their campaign in the same tournament last year, particularly the Moyo twins Kevin and Elvis who joined Chippa United in South Africa, held their first training session at the match venue yesterday. The second and final training session will be conducted this morning before the club holds its official press conference.
If Mapeza emerges victorious, his charges will set up a date against either UD Songo of Mozambique or Simba Stars of Tanzania, who also played to a nil-all stalemate in their first-leg encounter.
The first round encounters, to be played on the weekend September 13-15 and September 27-29, will be the final qualifiers before the group stage matches, whose draw will be conducted on October 9 before games get underway in late November up to March 2020.
Expectations are high this time that if FC Platinum make it to the group stages they will put up a better challenge than in their maiden appearance when they only managed to get two points from South African giants, Orlando Pirates. Key players for tomorrow’s encounter will be goalkeeper Wallace Magalane, roving midfielder-cum defender Kelvin Madzongwe, hardworking Never Tigere, Rahman Kutsanzira as well as Cameroonian striker, Albert Eonde. Club secretary Benson Virimai is confident of progressing to the next stage of the tournament.
“We have a good chance of progressing to the next round; confidence is there and experience is now there as well,” Virimai told Television Sports Media.