Bantu’s biggest test

Bantu’s biggest test

… take on Mbabane Swallows in champions league tie

MAFETENG – When the clock strikes four on Sunday Bantu will step onto the Setsoto Stadium turf to begin their 2018 CAF Champions League adventure.

It is an African excursion Bantu hope will last longer than it has for other Lesotho clubs in recent years.
Since 2002 when Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) beat Botswana’s Mogoditshane Fighters 1-0 on aggregate to reach the first round, no local side has progressed past the preliminary stage of the Champions League.

It is a run of misery that has comprised varying degrees of disappointment – from Matlama’s 7-0 humiliation by South Africa’s Orlando Pirates in 2004 to Lioli’s away goals defeat to Burundi’s Vital’O in 2016 – and plenty of grief.
Thankfully for ‘A Matšo Matebele’ the 2018 draw has been kind.

Bantu’s preliminary round opponents are Mbabane Swallows and although the Swaziland champions cannot be underestimated, in terms of distances to travel, climate to deal with and competition levels to overcome, Sunday’s visitors are about the best draw Bantu could have hoped for.
It is why there is such optimism in Mafeteng this week.

Throngs of black and gold fans are expected to descend on Maseru this weekend and the club has already organised M520 per fan packages for the return leg in Swaziland on February 21. For their part, the league has also ensured Bantu’s date on Sunday will be this weekend’s main event by shifting all Econet Premier League games that were set for the same day to Saturday in order to allow fans to fill up Setsoto and support the Mafeteng giants.

All that is left for Bantu is to break an almost 20-year duck for Lesotho football in Africa’s premier club competition.
“It is motivation on its own that we want to progress (to the first round) and make history,” Bantu assistant coach Bob Mafoso said.
“It is a motivation to the players as well as the staff,” he added.

“Progressing will mean our country’s football is growing and if we do well it is good for the country. The countries that do well in the Champions League are represented by a number of teams, even their national teams are doing well.”
Bantu, who celebrated their 90th birthday in style last year by winning the league title, are making their second-ever appearance in the Champions League.

The last time the Mafeteng giants stepped into Africa in 2015 they narrowly lost 1-0 on aggregate to Gabon’s Mangasport.
Lessons have been learned, Mafoso said, and Bantu have ensured they know as much about Mbabane Swallows as possible by watching clips of their games and studying their style of play.

“We have seen their clips, we have watched their games on television. We can’t claim that we know them that much but there is something we know about them. We have watched them live,” Mafoso said.

If Bantu are able to navigate their way past Mbabane Swallows they will face Zambia’s Zanaco or Gambia Armed Forces in the first round. Sunday’s first leg will be all-important to achieving that goal and the perfect scenario for Bantu would be to win without conceding an away goal.
“We are playing at home and we have to try by all means to avoid conceding an away goal and we have to win,” Mafoso said.

“If we can win at home without conceding a goal it will put us in the driving seat for the second leg. We will be in control and they will be the ones under-pressure. That is the aim, to not concede an away goal at home and to win.”
Mafeteng, and Lesotho as a whole, awaits.

2018 CAF Champions League draw:

First round:

St George (Ethiopia) v Al Salam (South Sudan)
CNaPS (Madagascar) v Kampala Capital City Authority (Uganda)
Zanaco (Zambia) v Gambia Armed Forces (Gambia)
Bantu (Lesotho) v Mbabane Swallows (Swaziland)
Stade Malien (Mali) v Williamsville AC (Ivory Coast)
Al Tahadi (Libya) v Aduana Stars (Ghana)
Entente Setif (Algeria) v Olympic Real Bangui (Central African Republic)
Real Bamako (Mali) v MFM FC (Nigeria)
AS Otoho (Congo) v Mouloudia Alger (Algeria)
AS Fan (Niger) v Horoya (Guinea)
Generation Foot (Senegal) v Misr Makassa (Egypt)
Young Africans (Tanzania) v St Louis (Seychelles)
Township Rollers (Botswana) v Al Merreikh (Sudan)
Gor Mahia (Kenya) v Leones Vegetarianos (Equatorial Guinea)
ASAC Concorde (Mauritania) v Esperance (Tunisia)
Plateau United (Nigeria) v Eding Sport (Cameroon)
AC Leopards (Congo) v AS Port Lome (Togo)
LISCR FC (Liberia) v Al Hilal (Sudan)
JKU SC (Zanzibar) v Zesco United (Zambia)
Benin representative v Asec Abidjan (Ivory Coast)
Ngaya Club (Comoros Islands) v UD Songo (Mozambique)
DH El Jadidi (Morocco) v Benfica (Guinea Bissau)
AS Vita Club (DR Congo) v Be Forward Wanderers (Malawi)
Primeiro Agosto (Angola) v FC Platinum (Zimbabwe)
Bidvest Wits (South Africa) v Pamplemousse SC (Mauritius)
Rayon Sports (Rwanda) v Lydia Ludic Burundi Academic (Burundi)

Luciah Phahla

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