AFTER enduring four hard years in the Castle Lager Premier League, FC Platinum finally made their first baby step towards achieving their long set goal of becoming one of Zimbabwean football’s real big boys.
There have been failed attempts before by teams like AmaZulu and Motor Action, among others, to reinvent the Big Three elite club to the Big Four, but traditional giants Caps, Highlanders and Dynamos have largely continued to dominate.
Enter FC Platinum, armed with a huge investment that saw them buy just about everything from players to coaches and even cheerleaders and it looked like another giant had finally entered the fray.
They even changed their name from Mimosa to FC Platinum upon promotion to the Premiership, but their performance has never reached platinum levels.
The road has been rough; they appeared to have failed to buy their way to the top. One coach after another tried but failed to justify huge investment which includes a redeveloped home base Mandava stadium in Zvishavane.
But just as it began to look like the Platinum miners were giving up on transforming themselves from an ordinary side making the Premiership numbers to a genuine giant, Norman Mapeza has given the biggest hint yet that the dream is still achievable.
Their only success before the Chibuku Cup was landing the Independence trophy, a couple of invitational tournaments and staying in the topflight.
Victory in the Chibuku Super Cup against Harare City last week provided silverware they can be truly proud of having conquered the league’s elite.
The fact that Mapeza had only promised to build a squad that could challenge for honours next season provides great optimism for success-hungry FC Platinum.
In the league Platinum have collected 20 points in 10 games since Mapeza took over, but they have been more impressive in the last six games where they dropped just two points.
The project is not yet complete, but the results suggest it is achievable. Platinum can only hope for more success next season; with the ticket to participate in the Confederations Cup the rich platinum miners will reach into their deep pockets once again with full confidence that their money is safe in Mapeza’s hands.
The immediate task is to tie down the exciting duo of Wisdom Mutasa and Walter Musona, both on loan from Aces Youth Academy.
Platinum’s investment on what seemed to be the best talents at the time in the likes of Joel Ngodzo, Benjamin Marere, Norman Maroto, Norman Togara, Daniel Vheremu Allen Gahadzikwa, Bheki Ncube Lincoln Zvasiya and Charles Sibanda to mention a few, went horribly wrong.
They roped in coach Rahman Gumbo, after the death of Benjamin Moyo, who also splashed the cash on players and all he could muster was a second place finish having squandered a 12-point lead on eventual champions Dynamos in the run-in.
Zambian Tennant Chilumba and Lloyd Mutasa also coached the side but met scant success.
Lately Platinum have slowed down on expenditure, refocusing attention on developing their own stars rather than buy polished gems.
“We will have to sit down with the executive and see how we can improve the team for next season; we have a number of players on loan from other teams whom we think we want to continue with”, said Mapeza just after winning the cup.
“When I joined FC Platinum I told them I would use the remainder of the season to build towards next season. Success this season was always going to be a bonus but it shows that we are on the right track and can get more glory next season.”
Mapeza will lead his young team into continental football next year and knows it will be no mean challenge.
“It’s going to be tough playing in continental tournaments seriously; it’s a challenge we are taking and we are confident of the abilities of this group of players, but we need to strengthen.”
The way FC Platinum fought to force extra time in their final against Harare City shows that Mapeza is transforming his team into a group of brave fighters unlike the over-paid “stars” of the past.