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Norman Mapeza yet to lose a game

by Robson Sharuko
14 May 2016 at 09:15hrs | Views
IT'S one of domestic football's finest success stories that has gone largely unnoticed — Norman Mapeza and his FC Platinum going for exactly a year without losing a match in the Castle Lager Premiership — in a remarkable record-breaking feat in the country's top-flight league.

And, as fate might have it, Mapeza and his men will tomorrow return to the scene of their last league defeat, against the very same opponents who beat them and in exactly the same month when they lost, for the last time, in a league match.

Monday marks the very day, last year, when FC Platinum began their 26-match unbeaten run in the Castle Lager Premiership with a 3-2 win over Triangle at Mandava and since then, Mapeza and his men have been allergic to defeat in the league.

A week earlier, they had visited Rufaro, as they will do tomorrow and crashed to a 0-1 defeat at the hands of the then defending champions Dynamos with Oscar Machapa scoring a last-gasp goal for the Glamour Boys to decide a tight contest.

Then, just like now, the Glamour Boys' house was in turmoil with pressure building on coach David Mandigora, whose side had not won in four league matches, including being handed a humiliating 0-3 defeat in their Rufaro fortress by Chicken Inn the previous week.

With tension high in the stands and Mandigora fighting for his job, Machapa bought him time in the hottest seat in the domestic Premiership when he turned the ball, swung from a corner, home and gave DeMbare their first league win in five matches.

Three months later both Mandigora and Machapa were gone.

Mandigora sacked, after the club's leadership finally lost patience with him, just seven months after his latest romantic dance with the Glamour Boys while Machapa had retraced his footsteps back to the green, green grass of home at CAPS United.

The big utility player didn't last long at Makepekepe with Congolese giants AS Vita knocking on the door for his services and today he is enjoying his stay in Kinshasa, where he has become one of his team's key players, as they chase for Champions League glory having dumped South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns from the competition.

FC Platinum's defeat that afternoon also piled the pressure on Mapeza, whose team was languishing in mid-table, with a section of the travelling fans calling for the club leadership to sack the former Warriors gaffer.

But despite all that chaos, Mapeza remained unmoved.

"I'm not worried at all. If results don't come and it means I have to go, I will go," he told journalists after that loss to the Glamour Boys.

"I'm not worried about anything, but I will try to soldier on."

And, soldier on he did.

Of course, a lot of credit should be given to the club's leadership, headed by the ice-cool club president George Mawere, who — even as the fans revolted and called for the coach's dismissal – remained committed to their gaffer in those troubled times.

As he left Rufaro that day, even with his future clearly uncertain, Mapeza said his men had learnt the hard way that they should never lose concentration, believing that they had picked a priceless point, when they face such giants like Dynamos.

And, a year later, it's very clear those lessons have been learnt.

FC Platinum have kept clean sheets in 11 of the 26 league matches they have played since conceding that last-gasp goal against Dynamos.

They have kept clean sheets against ZPC Kariba (home and away), Chapungu (home, away and home), Harare City (home twice), Ngezi Platinum (away), Buffaloes (away), Triangle (away) and How Mine (away).

They have won 16 of their matches and drawing 10, scoring 44 goals and conceding 14 to accumulate 58 points out of a possible 78 for an impressive 74.35 percent success rate.

FC Platinum have also beaten Dynamos, making up for that loss at Rufaro, with a comprehensive 3-1 victory at Mandava that had the Glamour Boys team manager Richard Chihoro conceding defeat that they had lost to a team that played better than them that afternoon.

That stunning performance, built around the pace and brilliance of their young forwards Brian Muzondiwa and Obrey Chirwa, was supposed to be the defining moment of their campaign which should have released the pressure and brought in a wave of confidence to see them marching to their first league title.

After all, to many neutrals, they had exorcised the demons of that penultimate game, against the Glamour Boys at Mandava in 2011 when, needing only a point to be sure of winning the league title, they choked and lost that big tie 0-1.

However, a run of three 1-1 draws against Flame Lily, CAPS United at Mandava and Dongo Sawmill, dropping six crucial points in the process, wasn't the closing chapter that FC Platinum needed, in their battle against Chicken Inn for the title, and it was the Gamecocks — who had failed to beat Mapeza and his men in their duel at Luveve — who ended being crowned champions.

Ahead of their latest visit to Rufaro, where they again face a Dynamos undergoing a soul-searching exercise after the dismissal of Portuguese coach Paulo Jorge Silva on Thursday and the installation of Lloyd Mutasa as caretaker coach, Mapeza has been warning his men that the Glamour Boys remain the biggest football brand in the country.

He says Dynamos' success speaks volumes about their pedigree and over the years, when the Glamour Boys have appeared to be cornered, they have found a way to respond with a stunning result and a good run, which eventually thrust them among those fighting for the title.

That was the case last year when, despite all the challenges in their camp, they found a way to claw back into the championship race and even beat Chicken Inn at Barbourfields in what should have been a defining result for Tonderai Ndiraya and his men.

Mapeza knows that nothing can be taken for granted, when playing Dynamos and he is right that his men should expect a backlash from the Harare giants. But, that's a story for another day, tomorrow to be precise. Right now, it's probably appropriate that we celebrate what these men from Zvishavane have done since they started their unbeaten run, in the league, on May 16 last year. A year, without losing a league match, isn't an easy feat.

If you doubt that, then ask Silva, who only lasted five games and had already lost two of them.

LAST LEAGUE DEFEAT — May 9, 2015, Round 9 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League


THE GOLDEN RUN – From May 16, 2015, Round 10 Castle Lager Premier Soccer League
FC Platinum 3-2 Triangle
ZPC Kariba 0-3 FC Platinum
FC Platinum 2-2 Highlanders
Hwange 1-1 FC Platinum
FC Platinum 4-1 Buffaloes
Chapungu 0-0 FC Platinum
FC Platinum 2-0 Chapungu
Buffaloes 0-3 FC Platinum
FC Platinum 2-0 Hwange
Highlanders 1-2 FC Platinum
FC Platinum 0-0 ZPC Kariba
Triangle 0-1 FC Platinum
FC Platinum 3-1 Dynamos
How Mine 0-3 FC Platinum
Tsholotsho 0-0 FC Platinum
FC Platinum 3-0 Whawha
Chicken Inn 1-1 FC Platinum
FC Platinum 2-0 Harare City
Flame Lily 1-1 FC Platinum
FC Platinum 1-1 CAPS United
Dongo 0-1 FC Platinum
FC Platinum 2-1 Tsholotsho
Highlanders 1-2 FC Platinum
FC Platinum 1-0 Chapungu
Ngezi 0-1 FC Platinum
FC Platinum 0-0 Harare City

Source - the herald