Tadious Manyepo-Sports Reporter
AFTER putting down a marker to their growing status as one of the biggest teams on the land, Castle Lager Premier Soccer League champions FC Platinum are praying Zimbabwe’s FIFA suspension will be lifted in time for them to participate in the CAF Champions League next year.
The country is on an indefinite suspension by the world’s football governing body with the latter demanding Zimbabwe should reinstate the Felton Kamambo-led ZIFA executive for the country to be readmitted into the international football family.
That means FC Platinum, who won their fourth consecutive league title in the just-ended season, will not be able to play in the CAF Champions League in the event FIFA maintains their stance.
Bulawayo Chiefs, who won the Chibuku Super Cup on Sunday, are also entitled to represent the country in the CAF Confederation Cup but that could also remain a pipedream for the ambitious Bulawayo team.
FC Platinum have played four times in the CAF Champions League with the Zvishavane platinum miners reaching the group stages twice while failing to breach the second round as many times.
But, they are convinced they will go beyond the group stages if they get a chance to participate in the next edition of the tournament.
FC Platinum vice-president, Evans Mutombeni, told The Herald that the miners will dominate the local scene for many years to come but their focus for now was playing in the CAF Champions League.
“I think as FC Platinum, we have managed to demystify the notion that only teams from Harare and Bulawayo are capable of dominating the local football cycles.
“I think we are now part of the big four teams in this country right now. At one point, we had all the cups competed for in the local landscape. We are talking of the Chibuku Super Cup, Castle Lager Premier Soccer League trophy and the Castle Lager Challenge Cup.
“That shows you how we have made some gigantic steps towards being one of the biggest clubs in this country.
“The vision for FC Platinum has always been to be an elite and leading club in Africa. We would like to start making strides in the CAF Champions League but at the moment, we don’t know what will happen since the country is still suspended from partaking in international football,” said Mutombeni.
“We just hope by the time the continental club competitions start in May or June next year, we would have been re-admitted into the international football community.
“We have been to the group stages twice already and we are looking at bettering that showing the next time we participate which is likely to be next year”.
Mutombeni revealed that his executive has come up with a position that will see the club having an average age of 24 years.
The club shipped out some old war-horses at the start of the year, including Kelvin Madzongwe, Silas Songani and Rahman Kutsanzira.
But, they were able to retain over 90 percent of the team that did duty for them in 2019 and that proved crucial in a campaign they competed with teams like Dynamos, who had managed to retain just two players, Emmanuel Jalai and Patson Jaure, from their 2019 squad.
“In our last strategic meeting, we agreed that we should continue looking at youthful players. We need a team whose players are all under the age of 27.
“We also agreed to improve our impetus on junior development in terms of our Under-15 and the like. “We also have our Under-19 team which plays in the ZIFA Central Region Division One where we have been extracting talent and also feeding into the general Zimbabwe football system.
“Continental club championships are very different from local football. There is so much quality up there and the secret is the same, most of those highly-competitive teams values continuity,” said Mutombeni.