The multi-million dollar platinum revolution shaking Zim football
Harare – A multi-million dollar revolution, inspired by the financial muscle of Zimbabwe’s largest platinum mines, appears set to change the face of domestic football in that country.
The mines infusion of millions into two rural clubs could finally topple a resistance that has stood for more than a half-a-century and produce the country’s first premiership champions, from outside the nation’s two biggest cities.
No Zimbabwean football club from outside Harare and Bulawayo has won the domestic league championship since 1966. This was when St Paul’s Musami, a club from the rural Murewa. The club was built by, football-mad Catholic priest, late Father Anthony Davis.
But things could change this season, with just four matches to be played in the Zimbabwe Castle Lager Premiership campaign. Two clubs backed by the country’s biggest platinum mining giants have their eyes set on rewriting the history books.
Ngezi Platinum Stars, a club from the rural heartlands of Mhondoro in the country’s Mashonaland West province took control of the championship race last weekend. This was after beating serial champions Dynamos 2-0 in a top-of-the-table showdown blighted by crowd trouble. Ngezi is backed by the nation’s biggest platinum mining giant Zimplants and is coached by former Dynamos coach and player, Tonderai Ndiraya.
The high-stakes battle, where the winner was assured a place in pole position of the 34-game marathon, was goalless at the break but two quick goals by the hosts took the stuffing out of the Harare giants amid drama in the terraces where the rival fans fought running battles with missiles being thrown by either side.
The match had to be stopped late into the contest after some Dynamos fans, retreating from a hail of missiles being thrown by their hosts in retaliation, invaded the pitch as they sought safety on the other side which was an island of calm in this ocean of madness.
Ngezi Platinum’s financial muscle has helped them woo a number of players from the Dynamos camp, including beating the Harare giants to the signature of defender Partson Jaure, on the Zimbabwe international’s return home from a flirtation in South African football.
Qadr Amini, who scored the first goal for Ngezi Platinum on Saturday, midfielder Water Mukanga and forward Tichaona Mabvura – who all featured for the Mhondoro side in that showdown – are former Dynamos stars while Ndiraya’s assistant coach Gift Muzadzi was also recruited from the Harare giants to work at Ngezi Platinum Stars.
The Mhondoro side, who won the country’s biggest knockout tournament – the Chibuku Super Cup – in their first year in the domestic Premiership last year, giving them a ticket into the CAF Confederation Cup where they crashed out at the second hurdle. They currently have 60 points, the same as their sister club FC Platinum, but lead the race by virtue of a superior goal difference.
“Our target at the start of the season was finishing among the top four teams,’’ Ndiraya told The Southern Times.
“Of course, that also means finishing as the top team because that position is one of the top four positions and we have been revising our expectations as the season has unfolded and I can tell you that we are now also fighting to be champions.
“It’s not going to be easy, it is never easy to be champions in any country, and there are still some tough matches left for us to deal with but for our community, who only started enjoying Premiership football just last year, this is a dream and we are all enjoying it and hopefully, by the end of the day, we are the ones who will be celebrating.’’
Ngezi Platinum might need to beat FC Platinum, who have been in the top-flight league for six years in which they were the richest club in the country until the Mhondoro side came along, in the penultimate match of the season.
FC Platinum are under the guidance of Norman Mapeza, who won the league championship with defunct Harare side Monomotapa in 2008 and has also had three stints as coach of the Zimbabwe national football team. The Zvishavane side believe this is their year for a date with destiny.
All they need is also to win their last four matches and the championship will be theirs, irrespective of what happens elsewhere, and they have already been given the backing of the man who guided CAPS united to the league title last season, Lloyd Chitembwe.
“I tip FC Platinum to win the league crown for the first time this season and I have faith that Norman will walk on the podium this year for the second time in his career as coach,’’ Chitembwe said in September this year.
“Norman is hungry for success and he is one coach who works hard, just like Tonderai (Ndiraya), but he has the edge over Dynamos and Ngezi Platinum as I feel experience will play a bigger part in the remaining games.
“When I won the championship I had to rely on the experience of Leonard (Tsipa).He scored vital goals for us and his presence in the team played a huge role.
“Mapeza has Chinyama (Takesure), Sadiki (Ali), Winston (Mhango), Gift (Bello) and Mkhokheli (Dube). I feel these are the players that can help win him the league although teamwork is very vital, from the fans, executive and players.’’
Dynamos, the country’s biggest and most successful football team, find themselves two points adrift of the leaders after a poor run in their last few matches in which questions over the quality of their squad have come to the fore coupled with disciplinary issues related to star forward Denver Mukamba who has struggled to keep himself away from trouble.
Mukamba, who was dubbed the best football talent emerging from Zimbabwe five years ago and even captained his country in a 2014 FIFA World Cup qualifier against Egypt, lost his way since returning home from a stint in South Africa.
But with a dozen points still on the plate, and the two leading sides having a match against each other, the Dynamos fans believe their side can still win the league title.