The Sunday Mail
Langton Nyakwenda in ZVISHAVANE
FC Platinum . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . (2) 3
Cranborne Bullets . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 0
THE light showers that followed after the final whistle did not dampen the spirit of joy among the FC Platinum players, coaches and their fans.
It did not matter, too, that there were few fans around; they just enjoyed every bit of the proceedings.
What a momentous occasion it was for FC Platinum, who were crowned the 2021/2022 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League champions for the fourth consecutive time at Mandava yesterday!
The Zvishavane side capped their season in style with a flawless show in a 3-0 thumping of Cranborne Bullets.
Striker Walter Musona enhanced his chances of being crowned Soccer Star of the Year when he scored his 14th goal of the season after only 13 minutes.
Thandolwenkosi Ngwenya doubled the lead in the first half before Panashe Mutimbanyoka put the icing on the cake in the second half.
Ngwenya and Mutimbanyoka are some of the teenage players the champions coach Norman Mapeza has been fusing into his side.
Left back Kelvin Mangiza and Oscar Bhebhe, who came on as a late substitute, are also now an integral part of FC Platinum, who took a bold step to offload the bulk of the team’s old guard at the start of the year.
And that is why Mapeza feels this latest championship is more special.
“This was a special one because we did it with a relatively young squad.
“In 2018, we had a fantastic squad but this time we had to fuse in some new players and it feels special,’’ said Mapeza.
“Sometimes you won’t feel the happiness because you are always working hard.
“Second half of the season was all about hard work . . . it was about planning, sourcing information about other teams.”
FC Platinum have now won four titles in a row, joining Dynamos and Highlanders, who are the only other Premiership sides to achieve that feat. The Zvishavane miners are now the only side from outside Harare and Bulawayo to win four straight titles.
This one was also Mapeza’s fourth career championship title as a coach.
He won his first with Monomotapa in 2008, before raking in three titles with FC Platinum in 2017, 2018 and 2022.
“This is a massive achievement for the club and it’s good for the community,” said Mapeza.
Ageless centre back Gift Bello also wrote his own fairytale.
The 38-year-old received his seventh championship medal, equalling CAPS United midfielder Devon Chafa’s record.
Bello won three titles with Dynamos from 2011 to 2013 before claiming four more with FC Platinum. Chafa won four with Dynamos, one with CAPS United and two with FC Platinum.
“It feels great to win my seventh championship medal. I feel like I am on top of the world,” said Bello.
“But it is all about hard work and credit goes to our coach Mapeza for keeping us on our toes every time.
“I want to thank the supporters of FC Platinum for rallying behind us through thick and thin,’’ Bello said.
At 38, Bello is one of the oldest players in the league today.
“It’s all about commitment,” he said.
“Age is nothing but just a number. If you work hard, you stay healthy and you play for many years.”
Club captain Petros Mhari dedicated the title to the Zvishavane community.
“We have a fantastic group of fans, they are always behind us, so they deserve to be happy,” said Mhari.
The ex-Warriors goalkeeper, however, did not play much part in this campaign due to injury. His replacement, Wallace Magalane, did well as FC Platinum never lost a match since he took over in between the sticks.
Magalane has made a strong bid for a place on the Soccer Stars of the Year calendar.
FC Platinum underlined their championship credentials by going on an unbeaten run in the second half of the season.
“We had a number of good matches, including this one against Cranborne Bullets.
“We talked about this game on Tuesday and I told the boys we needed to maintain our unbeaten record in the second half of the season,’’ Mapeza said.
FC Platinum started yesterday’s match on the front foot and found the opener after only 13 minutes. Ngwenya then made it 2-0, tapping in a pass from Mutimbanyoka.
It was a brilliant move that was initiated by Juan Mutudza, who sliced the ball through to Mutimbanyoka, who, in turn, picked up Ngwenya inside the box.
Mutimbanyoka made it 3-0 in the 56th minute. He dribbled past a cluster of defenders before rounding off the goalkeeper to score into an empty net.
FC Platinum: W. Magalane, L. Mhlanga, G. Bello, W. Stima, K. Mangiza, J. Mutudza, R. Pavari, B. Moyo (I. Mucheneka 88th), P. Mutimbanyoka, W. Musona, T. Ngwenya (O. Bhebhe 83rd)
Cranborne Bullets: H. Rusawo, D. Chinanga (X. Janata 46th), P. Mutasa, L. Zvasiya (K. Chidhonza 46th), D. Mbewe, C. Nyakope, M. Mudzuka, T. Chibunyu, J. Selemani, K. Mureremba, B. Muzondiwa (Meke 64th)