Bantu fly into Congo jungle

Bantu fly into Congo jungle

MASERU – Econet Premier League champions Bantu leave the country today for what is arguably the most important match in the club’s storied 94-year history.
‘A Matšo Matebele’ are flying to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to face AS Vita Club on Sunday in the first leg of a mouth-watering CAF Champions League first round tie.
Bantu will board the plane to DRC with their spirits sky high.

Two weeks ago Bantu made history when they became the first Lesotho club since 2002 to progress past the Champions League preliminary stage with a dramatic penalty shootout win over Botswana champions Township Rollers at Setsoto Stadium.
Bantu’s next test won’t be easy, though.

AS Vita are regulars in CAF competitions and last month lost to Morocco’s Raja Casablanca in the final of Africa’s second tier club competition, the CAF Confederation Cup.
The DRC side won the Champions League in 1978 and were beaten finalists in 2014 and, in 2016, famously knocked out South African giants Mamelodi Sundowns in this round of the competition before being disqualified.

DRC teams are also notorious for their poor treatment of visiting sides and, speaking on Wednesday, Bantu head coach James Madidilane warned his charges to expect the unexpected when they arrive in Kinshasa.

“We are not going there for a vacation, we are going to play,” said the former Bloemfontein Celtic and South Africa defender.
“I have already talked with my players to be ready mentally for anything when we arrive there, and even (on Tuesday) we were talking to them to be ready.
“We know we are not going to find the same things as back here at home.

“They are going to do whatever they can to destabilise us. Whether it is unacceptable hotels or anything (similar), we have to be ready for that and know this is not a vacation,” Madidilane said.
As against Township Rollers, Bantu have the advantage of playing the second leg in front of their home fans with the return match slated for December 23 at Setsoto.
As against Rollers, Bantu will be looking to use a tried-and-tested formula – sneak an away goal and finish the job at Setsoto.

For inspiration ‘A Matšo Matebele’ can look to their last two away games in the Champions League.
There is, of course, last month’s resolute 1-1 draw in Botswana against Rollers while, in January, Bantu beat eSwatini’s Mbabane Swallows 3-1 in their backyard only to be eliminated on the away goals rule.

“We have to do our job and come back home,” Madidilane said.
“We have to expect the unexpected when we arrive in the DRC, that’s what we have really been trying to get into our players’ minds.”

Getting this far in the Champions League has an added bonus for ‘A Matšo Matebele’. Not only do Bantu get a high profile tie against an African giant, they are guaranteed at least one more jaunt in Africa with a loss meaning the Mafeteng side would drop down to the Confederation Cup.
However, Bantu’s fans are not thinking about that, they are looking to advance to the group stage of Africa’s premier club competition, a feat no Lesotho side has ever
achieved.

According to Madidilane, he virtually has a full squad to choose from as his charges look to achieve that historic goal.
“We are leaving (on Thursday) and the only injury concern we have is Tsebang Lebata,” Madidilane said.
“He picked up a knock in training (on Tuesday) and we will look at him and see how he is. But we are hopeful that he will be fit for Sunday’s game.”

Luciah Phahla

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