Platinum revolution shakes Zim football

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Robson Sharuko

Harare – A Platinum revolution is casting a huge spell over Zimbabwean football and relegating the traditional heavyweights into the shadows in a way that is shaking the country’s national game to its core and leaving analysts stunned by the seismic changes.

When FC Platinum arrived in the country’s Premiership in 2011, backed by a huge financial investment from Mimosa Mines, there were many who believed that their bubble would burst very quickly and the team would soon disappear from the radar.

Even when the Zvishavane platinum miners showed they were in the business for the long haul, by investing millions of dollars into the renovation of Mandava Stadium and transforming it into a modern football ground, the pessimists dismissed them as a shooting star that would disappear from the radar very quickly.

Their massive investment in some of the finest football players in the country then was also dismissed as an extravagant expenditure and the critics said their bubble would soon burst with the club’s leadership, and their sponsors, being choked by the dominance of the traditional giants like Dynamos, CAPS United and Highlanders.

The club’s leaders lured some of the best coaches in this country, including successfully tempting Rahman Gumbo from his base in Botswana, and this was also dismissed as a just a parade of their financial weight which would not generate the kind of results that the club’s leaders were looking for.

And when Gumbo’s troops, who collapsed at the final hurdle of their maiden championship challenge with a 12-point advantage over Dynamos and 10 games to go to the end of the campaign, were wiped away by the Glamour Boys, who had come to Zvishavane in the penultimate match of that season and returned to Harare with a victory, the pessimists had a field day.

It was a bitter pill to swallow for the FC Platinum leaders, who believed they had done enough for their team to be crowned champions, in its first dance in the top-flight league, in a campaign where they only needed a draw in their penultimate match of the season to be crowned champions.

A number of traditional chiefs in the area had been invited for what was supposed to be a coronation of their club into champions that afternoon while an elaborate after party, which was set to rock Zvishavane, had been planned.

However, the resilient Glamour Boys somehow found a way to spoil the party with the pain for the Zvishavane miners being amplified by the fact that the goal that destroyed their dreams that year was scored by one of their own, defender Daniel Veremu.

Amid the disappointment in Zvishavane, triggered by the doomed mission in their maiden season in the top-flight league, one of the leaders of the club back then had the presence of mind to look into the future and not let all this destroy their vision.

“For a team that was playing in its first season in the PSL, our campaign was a success and the foundation was being built for a stronger challenge,” Nathan Shoko, who was the club president back then, told The Southern Times.

“Rome was never built in a day and you need patience in this game because things are not going to happen overnight, there will be setbacks here and there and what is important is how you respond to those setbacks.

“It was a bitter pill to swallow but it made us stronger because we always believed that we had the right foundation for success.”

That success, in terms of the domestic Premiership, did not come until six years later when FC Platinum, now under a leadership led by George Mawere as president, found a way to convert their potential into substance as they outlasted Dynamos in the marathon to win by two clear points.

“Football is changing and it’s all about resources, it’s about treating it as a business and that’s what the platinum miners are doing in our league and dramatically changing the face of the game,” Zimbabwe National Soccer Supporters Association president Eddie “Mboma” Nyatanga told The Southern Times.

“Gone are the days when all the best young players in the country would dream about playing for Dynamos, CAPS United and Highlanders, which always gave these giants a source of very good talent that would help them win the championships now and again.

“Now, the boys that are coming through the ranks want a decent lifestyle, they have dreams of also having a house of their own, and they are finding those incentives at these platinum miners.

“This is about big changes that are happening in our game and we don’t seem to be seeing them but there is something big that is taking place in our game and it’s exciting because it shows that the sport is not dying but showing a lot of life.

“Now you can see the fans from Zvishavane or Ngezi coming to Harare in numbers and also coming with the confidence that their teams can win which can only be good for our football.”

Ngezi Platinum have also been flexing their muscles and have invested heavily in quality players and a good coach while also renovating their Baobab Stadium into a first-class facility with Wi-Fi where the media can send their material to their newsrooms straight from the stadium.

Coach Tonderai Ndiraya was hired when the then Premiership newbies were struggling to make a mark in the domestic Premiership two years ago, but he has transformed them into a force that some analysts believe will win the league championship this year.

“They are a very organised and very strong side,” said veteran football commentator Charles ‘CNN’ Mabika. “They have invested in an analyst who tells the players where they are lacking and what needs to be done.

“They are a professional side and the sky is the limit for them.”

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