Mapeza makes history
FOR over half a century, the coveted league title in Zimbabwe has been unidirectional.
It has been either a team from the capital city or Bulawayo laying its hands on the ultimate prize of domestic football, with those in the periphery being confined to being bridemaids.
Even some of the well-resourced teams from outside the two cities have tried to bid for the title, without success.
Shabanie Mine, one of the oldest football clubs in Zimbabwe, established in 1914, and air force side Chapungu, have tried in vain to break the dominance and take the trophy to their respective towns of Zvishavane and Gweru.
But, instead, they have often been relegated to the lower division.
ZiscoSteel of Kwekwe also fought hard and long in the hegemonic struggle, but they never walked to the winners podium until they were relegated in 1999.
Lancashire Steel, army side Tongogara, Chrome Stars and Kwekwe Cables among several teams in other provinces have put up a fight, but failed to deliver the championship which had become a preserve for the teams in the two big cities.
But on Saturday, FC Platinum coach Norman Mapeza turned Zimbabwean football on its head, which ensured a shift in the balance of power after beating Harare giants Dynamos to the championship in a very close race following a 2-0 win over Chapungu at Ascot Stadium to end the campaign on 72 points, two ahead of their nearest rivals who edged Chicken Inn 1-0 in another league match in Harare.
The Platinum miners have since their promotion into the top-flight league in 2011, been high on diagnosis as they hired several coaches including Rahman Gumbo and Lloyd Mutasa, but were short on prescription as the envisaged championship remained stubbornly elusive.
In 2011, Gumbo, who was coach of FC Platinum, had his dream of winning the championship wrecked by Dynamos, who beat them to the title on goal difference after finishing tied on 58 points.
Mutasa also came close in 2013, but finished four points behind eventual champions Dynamos, Highlanders and Harare City who ended tied on 54 points.
Since Mapeza took over from Mutasa in 2014, he has also been failing agonisingly close, finishing fourth that year and third the following year.
Last year, he was runner-up to Caps United, but he finally delivered it on Saturday.
It had been a long wait and the FC Platinum gaffer was clearly overcome by emotions at the final whistle.
“We give glory to God for this win and our hard work paid off,” Mapeza said.
“I was under pressure to break this long-standing record and bring glory to our side. We thank God for seeing us through and also helping us overcome all the hurdles we faced.
“Well done to the team for doing well. Am glad we scored and won here at Ascot, where it has been difficult to win.
“The home stretch has not been easy for anyone, but as a result of hard work, we won. We thank the club for giving us all that we needed to make our season a success.”
The last time a team from outside Harare or Bulawayo lifted the championship was way back in 1966 when the now-defunct ST Paul’s FC, then based in Musami, Murewa, some 80km north-east of Harare, won it under the guidance of Antony Edward Davies.
BY TAWANDA TAFIRENYIKA