Bantu’s moment of truth

Bantu’s moment of truth

MASERU-Lesotho champions Bantu begin their CAF Champions League journey on Sunday at Setsoto Stadium when they welcome Zambian champions Nkana Football Club in the first preliminary stage of the continental club showpiece.

The second leg is scheduled for next weekend in Zambia with the winner of the tie set to face either Akonangui of Equatorial Guinea or Angola’s Atlético Petróleos de Luanda for a spot in the group stage.
This will be Bantu’s first competitive game in eight months although they have played two friendly matches against South African GladAfrica side Free State Stars in recent weeks.

Bantu head coach Bob Mafoso said the games against Free State Stars helped them a lot in terms of gaining match fitness and to test their physicality before Sunday.
Unlike in Lesotho, the domestic league in Zambia is well underway and Nkana has so far played five games.

However, while they may have an advantage in terms of match fitness, Nkana’s record in their first five games is underwhelming and it is something Bantu can draw confidence from.
The Zambian champions have won one game, drawn two and lost twice and they were humbled 5-0 by Green Buffaloes in their last game was last Wednesday. They are a team that concedes a lot of goals and going on the front foot may be beneficial to Bantu if they hope to get a goal or two. Mafoso said it is important to go to Zambia with an advantage and for his side to try to avoid conceding goals.

“We have to balance the attack and defence and work hard when we don’t have the ball and try to avoid conceding. We don’t want to concede we want to go back to Zambia with an advantage so we will attack and try score goals,” he said.

Some players started training with the team this week and Mafoso said going into this Sunday’s game with fresh minds is important. He said the players that were with the national team last week were a bit exhausted when they returned but he believes they will be ready for a battle come match-day.

“They are all fit and probably 78 percent to where we wanted them to be as you would imagine after long lay-off, we have played friendly matches but a competitive game it is different,” Mafoso said.
“(The games against Free State Stars) have helped us physically and tactically you can really test yourself on the pitch against Nkana but it was helpful.”

In recent times, Bantu remain the only team from Lesotho to have gone beyond the preliminary stage, and they will be looking to repeat the same performance and perhaps do even better than in their 2018/19 campaign when they beat Botswana’s Township Rollers.

On Sunday, the Prime Minister Dr Moeketsi Majoro announced that supporters can return to grounds to watch games as the coronavirus infection rate in the country has decreased. Bantu will have at least half the capacity of fans at Setsoto cheering them on and Mafoso welcomed the development saying their support has always been the driving force behind the team.

“Their support is always meaningful to us and we have not played without them,” Mafoso said.
“We have not been playing in the last months but we definitely welcome them back.”

Tlalane Phahla

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