Ricky Zililo, Senior Sports Reporter
UGLY scenes of hooliganism leading to the premature end of Highlanders and FC Platinum’s last two meetings have spoiled the beautiful game.
FC Platinum are making a return to Barbourfields tomorrow to face Highlanders, 30 months after the Castle Challenge Cup which they won 2-0 was marred by ugly scenes of violence.
Towards the end of the game, Highlanders fans invaded the pitch and threw objects, leading to a lengthy stoppage and when calm was finally restored, referee Arnold Ncube blew the whistle to end the match.
This year, on April 23, another ugly confrontation played out at Mandava Stadium, leading to the FC Platinum and Highlanders match being abandoned in the 84th minute when the two teams were deadlocked 1-1. Referee of the day Kuzivamwari Jaravaza awarded the late penalty to the home team that Highlanders contested as they argued that a collision between defender Peter Muduhwa and FC Platinum forward Walter Musona occurred outside the box.
As the game was about to resume following a lengthy stoppage caused by fans who stormed the pitch, police fired tear gas leading to abandonment of the match.
The PSL then slapped Bosso with a US$6 000 fine and awarded FC Platinum three points on a 3-0 score-line.
Now the two teams face off with different agendas, Highlanders wanting to consolidate their top-four finish charge and become the first team to stop FC Platinum’s juggernaut.
FC Platinum are unbeaten in 17 games in all competitions – 15 in the premier soccer league and two in the Chibuku Super Cup.
The last time that FC Platinum registered a defeat was on April 30 when they were beaten 1-0 by Herentals at the National Sports Stadium. Since then, they have won 14 times, playing to three draws against Dynamos, Black Rhinos and Ngezi Platinum Stars.
Both coaches, Baltemar Brito of Highlanders and FC Platinum’s Norman Mapeza, are pleading with fans to exercise restraint, accept the result and avoid barbaric acts.
The two teams are promising to dish out a sumptuous plate of football, giving fans true value for their money.
Bosso coach Brito said: “We expect our stadium to be packed with the good behaviour of the supporters. It doesn’t make sense for the club to be getting fines because of bad behaviour from our fans. So, we ask the supporters to come in large numbers and please behave well for the game to finish.”
Mapeza challenged travelling FC Platinum fans to be in their best behaviour.
“We don’t want violence. At the end of the day let the best team win. We just need to play our normal game. To fans, please don’t get provoked, whatever happens is normal in a game of football. Let’s resist violence and accept the result,” said Mapeza.
FC Platinum, on the verge of claiming a historic fourth Premier Soccer League title, are fired up for the Highlanders encounter, with Mapeza impressed with the players’ attitude.
The Zvishavane side top the table with 61 points, 10 ahead of second-placed Chicken Inn and need nine points to win their fourth consecutive title.
Mapeza expressed his satisfaction with the players’ attitude towards the game.
“Our preparations have gone very well. I’m more than happy with the attitude, the desire that the guys are showing. Everybody knows our situation as we’re going to Bulawayo to face Highlanders.
“If you look at Highlanders’ previous matches, they have been doing very well. They are the second team in the league to have collected a lot of points (in the second half of the season). It’s a massive game for us, but what is important is to go there with a positive mind. We will play our normal game without pressure,” said Mapeza.
Highlanders coach Brito expects FC Platinum to play an open game, show off like champions and not behave like “a small team.”
“We will do our best to win the game but we know we will play a good team, a team that are three-time champions and a team that normally have an approach of attacking football. They like to play in attack, the midfield with the ball in the opponent half.
We expect at least they don’t come here as a small team. We hope they come here to play game by game and give entertainment to the supporters,” Brito says.
To upset the champions, Highlanders have to be clinical upfront. The Bosso midfield has to create scoring opportunities while their defence of Peter Muduhwa, Mbongeni Ndlovu, Andrew Mbeba and Godfrey Makaruse must keep track of FC Platinum’s offensive players who include Musona Thandolwenkosi Ngwenya, box-to-box midfielder Brian Banda who will be facing his former paymasters.
Highlanders will pin hopes on striker Lynoth Chikuhwa who has 10 goals and came from the bench at Cranborne to lead their attack alongside Washington Navaya or Stanley Ngala. Bosso’s central midfield duo of Nqobizitha Masuku and Darlington Mukuli are likely to be trusted to deal with Banda, Rainsome Pavari and Juan Mutudza.
FC Platinum have an economic defence that has let in nine goals in 28 games, meaning that Highlanders should work harder to breach that backline.
Goalkeeper Wallace Magalane has been impressive between the sticks, with captain Gift Bello and Lawrence Mhlanga ably marshalling FC Platinum’s defence.
PSL Matchday 29 fixtures
Today: Black Rhinos v Harare City (Vengere), Ngezi Platinum Stars v ZPCC Kariba (Baobab), Herentals v Cranborne Bullets (National Sports Stadium), Whawha v Bulawayo Chefs (Ascot), Bulawayo City v Chicken Inn (Barbourfields)
Tomorrow: Highlanders v FC Platinum (Barbourfields), Manica Diamonds v Dynamos (Sakubva), Caps United v Triangle United (National Sports Stadium)
Article Source: The Chronicle