‘I’m proud of my team’

‘I’m proud of my team’

…..Madidilane in defiant mood ahead of year-end clash….

MASERU – Bantu coach James Madidilane says he is proud of his team’s performance this season despite the likelihood of ‘A Matšo Matebele’ ending the campaign without a trophy for the first time during his three-year stewardship of the club.
Madidilane has transformed Bantu since his arrival in July 2016 and has become a cult figure in Mafeteng.

In his first season Bantu captured the league title before they went one better last season by winning the Econet Premier League and Independence Cup double for the first time in the club’s history.
This season, however, has been Madidilane’s toughest with a combination of an inspired Matlama side and numerous African travels conspiring to wreck his plans to lead Bantu to a third successive league crown and become just the second side in Lesotho football history to achieve the feat after Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) did so in 1997, 1998 and 1999.

Bantu, of course, still have an outside shot of winning the Econet Premier League again.
‘A Matšo Matebele’, with 57 points, are two points behind leaders Matlama heading into Saturday’s final games where Bantu face Sefotha-fotha and ‘Tse Putsoa’ take on Linare.
Thanks to their superior goal difference, Bantu would win the league with a win and any dropped points by Matlama, but it is a long shot.

Madidilane, nonetheless, refused to label the possibility of finishing trophy-less a failure.
Instead, the former Bloemfontein Celtic and South Africa defender praised his players.
“We worked really hard in preseason preparing for this season. We set targets for ourselves at the beginning and, to be honest with you, we didn’t reach those targets because we didn’t win any trophy this season and that’s what people are looking at. But, for me, I am not only looking at that, I am looking at the performance,” Madidilane said.

No team in the country played more games than Bantu this season.
‘A Matšo Matebele’ competed in five competitions: the league, Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8, Independence Cup, CAF Champions League and CAF Confederations Cup.
In the Champions League, the Mafeteng giants made history by becoming the first Lesotho team since LDF in 2002 to proceed past the first stage of the competition when they beat Botswana’s Township Rollers in the preliminary round last October.
Madidilane said that achievement is something fans and everyone associated with the club should be proud off.

“I am proud that we were able to proceed to the next round of the Champions League (before) we were knocked out by (the Democratic Republic of Congo’s) AS Vita,” he said.
“It’s true that there is a team that has proceeded before but that was a long time ago. We may not be able to win anything this season but, performance wise, I am proud of the team. I think we did fairly well.”

Madidilane said competing on five different fronts and still being able to push all the way to the finish line in the title race showed Bantu have a level of consistency other teams still have to strive for, including leaders Matlama.
Bantu also reached the final of the Independence Cup and the Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 semi-finals this season.

Madidilane challenged Matlama to display the same kind of consistency before they can be considered on Bantu’s level.
“We didn’t win (the league title) but we have a structure of how we want to play, we have the consistency which is important,” he explained.

“Matlama are number one but, no disrespect to them, let’s see if they will keep the consistency, my team has been consistent,” Madidilane continued.
“In the first season we didn’t lose more than two games (in the league), last season it was the same. This season we didn’t lose a lot of games as well but I admit we had a lot of draws unlike the previous seasons.”

One sign of Bantu’s consistency is their final points total in the league for the past two years.
In the 2016/17 campaign ‘A Matšo Matebele’ amassed 62 points from 26 games. Last season the top-flight only comprised 13 teams after Sundawana were kicked out and Bantu finished with 56 points from 24 games.

Their average points per game, however, remained the same at 2.4 which means Bantu would have reached the 60 points plateau in a normal season.
Theoretically, it means this would be a third successive season of Bantu reaching 60 points which hasn’t been achieved since Lesotho’s elite league was reduced from 16 teams ahead of the 2010/11 campaign.

Madidilane said that is Bantu’s target – 60 points; another reason he views Saturday’s season finale against Sefotha-fotha as a must-win.
“This weekend we just want to reach the 60 points mark which is what we have achieved for two years,” said the Bantu boss.
“This year we will not win the league but that is the target we have to reach. So, we play Sefotha-fotha on the final day and we want to win the game.”

Tlalane Phahla

 

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