Zimbabwe’s CAF Champions League
Harare – Zimbabwe’s CAF Champions League representatives, FC Platinum, will have to endure playing their home games away from home for the second season running after their own stadium failed a CAF inspection test.
The back-to-back Zimbabwe champions will once again host their group opponents at Barbourfields in Bulawayo, some 350 kilometres away from their Mandava venue in the small mining town of Zvishavane.
After failing the same examination the last time out, hopes were high in the FC Platinum corridors that the facility would be cleared this time around.
But the CAF team picked some flaws which the team should address before they can play the continental games on their own turf.
It could have been even worse for the side preparing to host Tunisian giants Etoile du Sahel as Barbourfields itself almost failed the same inspection.
With the only other option available, the National Sports Stadium in Harare, having found faulty, FC Platinum could have been pushed to host their games outside the country.
In any case, if authorities at Barbourfields fail to address problem areas in the given period, FC Platinum will be left with no choice but to look beyond borders.
The team entertain Etoile du Sahel on Saturday in their second group game. They lost the opener 1-2 to Sudanese champions Al-Hilal last weekend.
Coach Lizwe Sweswe lamented the development and said it has the potential to demotivate his troops ahead of their duel against the Tunisian tried and tested army side.
“We had hoped that our home stadium would be homologated this time around. We played all our matches in Bulawayo up until we exited in the group stages last year. We have been hosting our games from the preliminaries until we progressed to the group stage again this year. So we were hoping to play our home games at Mandava this season but it won’t be the case,” said Sweswe.
“It is always good to play before your own fans. But all the same the fact that Bulawayo is in Zimbabwe and we enjoy significant following there means that we will still be enjoying home advantage. But ideally, we would have wanted to play at our own home ground where our players are very motivated.”
The Zimbabwe Football Association has pledged to help the team put up the needed infrastructure in the coming weeks before they can invite the CAF officials for re-inspection.
While FC Platinum battle to redeem their group campaign, it will be game on for other Southern Africa teams in the CAF Champions League and the second tier CAF Confederation Cup.
Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, who beat Petro Luanda of Angola 3-0 in the opening group game last week, are away to Morocco for a date with WAC Casablanca.
Zesco United of Zambia, who drew against Agosto last week, host DRC giants TP Mazembe while Agosto face Zamalek of Egypt.