HARARE – Castle Lager Premiership champions FC Platinum are not leaving anything to chance and yesterday began their preparations for the Africa Champions League determined to make an impact in the tournament.
All the 28 players registered for the tournament reported for the team’s first training session at their base in Zvishavane at Mandava Stadium, where the main emphasis was on medicals to check on the fitness and conditioning of the players.
The platinum miners will be the country’s sole representatives in Africa and today are scheduled to travel to Bulawayo where they will set up base to intensify their preparations until January 26, a move that will also cement the bond between the players.
The 2018 Champions League draw was not kind to Norman Mapeza’s charges as they were handed a tricky route to reach the group stages after being drawn against Angolan champions Desportivo de Agosto in the preliminary round.
The Zimbabwean champions will travel to Angola on the weekend of February 9-11 before hosting their opponents at Mandava Stadium a week later.
If Mapeza’s side gets past Desportivo de Agosto, they will then face the winner of the tie between South African side Bidvest Wits and Pamplemousses of Mauritius.
And it is against this background that Mapeza and his club’s management opted for early preparations.
While they retained most of their players from last year, FC Platinum have strengthened their squad by bringing in highly-rated utility player Liberty Chakoroma as well as Zambian forward Shadreck Mayembe and Cameroonian Albert Eonde in the squad.
The champions also sealed the deals to bring midfielder Rahman Kutsanzira from Highlanders as well as defenders Jameson Mukombwe who signed from Black Rhinos and Lawrence Mhlanga, who spent the entire 2017 season sidelined by a contractual dispute with Chicken Inn.
Goalkeeper Collin Phiri, Kelvin Madzongwe, Never Tigere, Nigel Papias are also some of the new players who were present at the team’s first training yesterday.
Some of the players retained from the previous year include reigning Soccer Star of the Year Rodwell Chinyengetere, first runner-up Kelvin Moyo, forward Gift Mbweti among others.
However, there were no places for Takesure Chinyama, Brian Muzondiwa, Ian Nekati and Raymond Sibanda among others whose contracts were not renewed.
FC Platinum, will only be making their second appearance with the Champions League, having previously participated in the 2012 edition in which they were eliminated in the first round stage by Sudanese giants El Merreikh.
Mapeza revealed to the Daily News that he is excited and is looking forward to assemble a competitive side that can at least reach the group stages of the Champions League.
“It’s now back to serious business. We are all delighted and looking forward to the task at hand.
“We re-grouped this morning (yesterday) checking our endurance levels then we will have our first training session in the afternoon,” Mapeza said.
“Tomorrow (today) we will be travelling to Bulawayo and we will be camped there until January 26.
“I think we have bought in some players who we think will add value to the team. We now want to work hard and be as competitive as we can. It will be good if we can reach the Group stages of the tournament.”
Goalkeepers: Francis Tizayi, Petros Mhari, Wallace Magalane, Collin Phiri Defenders: Raphael Muduviwa, Jameson Mukombwe, Elvis Moyo, Kelvin Moyo, William Sitima, Gift Bello, Lawrence Mhlanga Midfielders: Winston Mhango, Nqobizitha Masuku, Liberty Chakoroma, Never Tigere, Kelvin Madzongwe, Marshall Mudehwe, Hillary Bakacheza, Rahman Kutsanzira, Rodwell Chinyengetere, Bret Amidu, Ali Sadiki Strikers: Mkhokheli Dube, Gift Mbweti, Albert Eonde, Shadreck Mayembe, Nigel Papias, Charles Sibanda