Thursday, June 7, 2018

Platinum powers take main stage

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THE biggest football spectacle has over the years, been hosted either at Rufaro Stadium, the National Sports Stadium or Barbourfields.
BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA
The biggest matches of any season have always involved at least one of the Big Three − Highlanders, Dynamos and Caps United.
Most of the time, the seasons’ main attraction has been a conquest of two of the Big Three.
But this season, it’s not the case and it is possible, it might not be the case for the next few years if current settings are anything to go by.
With Ngezi Platinum and FC Platinum literally turning the championship into a two-horse race, as the league programme staggers towards the halfway mark, the football script has been redefined and repackaged.
A match between these two platinum teams is no longer an inter mines event, but rather an fixture of national interest and significance.
The big cities have since been robbed of the biggest matches of the season. The Big Three have been kicked off the main stage.
The main serving of the season can now only be found in Ngezi or Zvishavane.
This weekend’s Castle Lager Premier Soccer League match between the two title-chasing platinum miners has generated a lot of hype across the country, evoking emotions even in Harare and Bulawayo, long regarded as football strongholds.
That the match between FC Platinum and Ngezi has turned out to be the most alluring is not by accident, but by design.
It is not only their bottomless purses that have given them this power of persuasion, but the proficiency with which the two are executing the tasks.
A meeting between Norman Mapeza and Tonderai Ndiraya’s sides is one of quality versus quality.
Despite the advantage of their clubs’ wealth Mapeza and Ndiraya have proved to be some of the best football think tanks locally.
What is perhaps fascinating is that the two teams have contrasting playing styles, FC Platinum are firm believers in ball-retention and always try to patiently and meticulously pass their way into the nets, in typical Barcelonas tiki taka fashion, while Ngezi employs a system of moving the ball from the back to the front in the quickest possible time, possibly Real Madrid style.
The beauty of it all is that both employ their different philosophies to great effect.
Thus, long processions are expected on Saturday towards the Baobab, where fans can almost be guaranteed of a genuine pound-for-pound football contest.
At 38 points apiece from 15 matches, the statistics are very loud on how dominant the two miners have been this season.
Add Caps United (23) and Dynamos’s (14) points and they still fall short of what each of the platinum sides have amassed so far.
The Big Harare derby pitting Caps United and Dynamos has already been witnessed so far.
The main story was really about Denver Mukamba facing his paymasters who lent him to Caps against his own will.
Football-wise, it was also a good match, but this at the time when a clash between a mid-table team (Caps United) and one at the lower echelons of the league, battling to repel demons that threatened to confine them to a relegation battle, and nothing has improved since then.
Its context was nothing to do with the main prize, but just pride.
The Caps clashes against Ngezi and Highlanders too were a spectacle that will linger on for quite some time. Then there is the battle between Dynamos and Highlanders at Rufaro. It reaffirmed the widely held view that this duel remains one of the biggest matches in both stature and quality.
But it is one that has since slipped out of most memories as it has proved to be a match between sides that are simply making up numbers this season.
Highlanders started off well, but have since slipped nine points behind and don’t look like they can catch up with these richly talented teams.