MASERU-The past 12 months have been a roller-coaster that will go down in history and it has been especially so for Bantu’s league champion coach, Bob Mafoso.
This time last year Mafoso was coach of Kick4Life and had just finished finalising a team for the 2019/20 season.
Mafoso was in high spirits as he looked forward to a new campaign and he gushed about the new signings Kick4Life had made.
However, just a few weeks down the line news broke that Mafoso had suddenly left his post to join Bantu and it didn’t go down well at Kick4Life.
Kick4Life never criticised Mafoso publicly but the club always hinted their unhappiness at how his move came about.
However, that is just how football goes sometimes and going to Mafeteng was an opportunity of a lifetime for Mafoso.
This is Bantu we are talking about – the Premier League giants, Lesotho’s most fashionable team and the current league champions.
As committed as Mafoso may have been to his Kick4Life project, it is difficult to say no to Bantu, not only because of the club’s stature, but their available resources in finances and player talent as well.
Of course, there is the pressure of coaching Bantu, not least their hard to impress supporters.
In addition to that, Mafoso also had to fill the shoes of South African tactician James Madidilane who left Mafeteng last June as the most successful coach in Bantu’s history.
Mafoso, in his first high-profile head coaching job, had to prove he hadn’t made a foolish mistake by leaving the stable surroundings at Kick4Life for the furnace of Mafeteng.
Mafoso, however, knew he was walking into the fire and he was ready for it.
In an interview with this paper last October, he revealed that his goal was to win trophies in Mafeteng and look back on his ‘A Matšo Matebele’ career with pride.
12 months later and the first step to that goal is complete with Mafoso having inspired Bantu to the Econet Premier League crown in stylish fashion.
It was a roller-coaster ride which included inspired football that saw Bantu unbeaten in the league and then an abrupt end to the season because of Covid-19.
However, all ended well when Bantu were declared deserved champions by the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) three weeks ago and ‘A Matšo Matebele’ officially reclaimed the title from Matlama who finished second.
Speaking to thepost this week, Mafoso said he is hungry for more success and he insisted there is no room for complacency in Bantu’s chase for glory.
He said the next frontier for the club is Africa and the CAF Champions League.
“We don’t want to win cups and end there, why don’t we challenge ourselves? We want to do well in Africa,” Mafoso said.
“Let’s push to start working hard locally. If we can prepare to do well in Africa, it would benefit us even more domestically. There is no bigger motivation than the Champions League because it is the highest level,” he added.
Mafoso said with the squad of players at his disposal, more success is possible.
“I am amazed by these players, I have not seen such a high level of professionalism before; maybe it’s because they know they live via football and they are so professional,” he said.
In addition to his players, Mafoso has also won over the fans in Mafeteng. He was Madidilane’s assistant coach when Bantu won back-to-back league titles in 2017 and 2018 before he left to take charge of Kick4Life ahead of the 2018/2019 season.
When Madidilane departed last May, Bantu’s executive immediately head-hunted the South African’s former side-kick to take over the reins.
12 months later and a league title in the bag, Mafoso said Bantu now have to double their efforts because he is anticipating a competitive 2020/21 season.
He said other clubs will come guns blazing at Bantu and said he expects two or three teams to provide stiff competition for the champions.
“It increases the level of competition because now every team is preparing, they are saying we didn’t lose last season they are going to be the first ones to beat us, so that is going to bring the level of competition up and we might have two or three teams next season maybe fighting,” Mafoso said.
Going a season unbeaten has also raised the bar.
Mafoso, however, insisted that was never the plan.
“To us, it is has never been our objective to play the whole season and go unbeaten, the objective has always been we want to win as many games that will put us closer to winning the league,” he said.
“You would think I am joking when I say the league is a marathon,” he added.
“It is important to be consistent because if you drop points against mid-table teams or teams fighting relegation it is the difference between winning the league or not. I think it made a lot of difference to us and helped us with our form this season.
“It was never our objective but we did go unbeaten because we did a lot of things right. It gives us pressure because we still have to improve against people who will come guns blazing when they face us. Our level of fitness has to be high now, more than ever,” Mafoso said.
After wrapping up the Econet Premier League title there is still the Lesotho National Insurance Group (LNIG) Top 8 semi-finals to come and Bantu are now focusing on getting another trophy through the door.
The LNIG Top 8 is set to be concluded just before the start of the 2020/21 season.
Before COVID-19 Bantu were clear favourites to win the trophy, but now with the long break everyone has suffered and it could swing things. Nonetheless, it is still difficult to bet against the league champions.
“Like I said before, you train to be better, we still need to bring in two or three players who are hungry for success,” Mafoso said.
“When they come here and mix with the players that have already tasted success, I believe it will be a nice mix.”
In a year of headlines, that sounds like more bad news for the rest of league.
Rabale eyes Champions League glory
Lesotho women’s team captain Boitumelo Rabale has her eyes on winning her second CAF Women’s Champions League with Mamelodi Sundowns as the tournament gets underway this weekend.
The third edition of the prestigious women’s club football is scheduled for Ivory Coast from November 5-19, where eight clubs will battle it out to be crowned Queens of the continent.
“Queen”, as the Lesotho star is commonly known, was part of the Sundowns squad that was crowned champions of the inaugural edition of the tournament held in Egypt two years ago, becoming the first player from the Mountain Kingdom to taste Champions League success.
She has become one of the key players in Jerry Tshabalala’s squad having walked away with the Hollywoodbets Player of the Season in the previous campaign and currently leads the goal-scoring charts with 21 goals.
“It was exciting to win the CAF Women’s Champions League with Sundowns two years ago and in the process becoming the first player from Lesotho to do so,” Rabale said.
“I felt very lucky and honoured to make history. It gave me confidence to continue working hard and strive for more success with the club”
Sundowns head to the tournament as regional champions after clinching the COSAFA qualifiers to qualify for the continental showpiece, where they will kickstart their campaign against Tanzania’s JKT Queens on Sunday.
Rabale admitted that memories of losing the last final to AS FAR still haunts them, but they head to Ivory Coast a better team than in the last tournament.
“We learnt the hard way when we lost in the final to AS FAR and we come back a better team having rectified our mistakes.
“It’s our dream to conquer the continent again and I have no doubt that we have what it takes to get our second star in Ivory Coast.
“It will be very good to add the second CAF Champions League medal to my trophy cabinet,” she said.
The 27-year-old has been prolific for Sundowns this campaign having scored nine goals in her last five matches to take her tally for this campaign to 21 goals.
Sundowns are in Group A alongside tournament hosts, Athletico Abidjan, Sporting Casablanca of Morocco, as well as Tanzania’s JKT Queen.
Since joining Sundowns in 2021, Rabale has won the Hollywoodbets Super League twice, the COSAFA Zonal qualifiers twice as well as the CAF Women’s Champions League and is the reigning Hollywoodbets Player of the season.
Red Skins fail to raise funds for championship
Lesotho volleyball giants Red Skins have failed to raise funds for the 2023 Zone 6 Senior Indoor Volleyball Club Championship they are set to host in December.
Red Skins will host the competition together with four other local volleyball clubs – Lesotho Defence Force (LDF), Lesotho Mounted Police Station (LMPS) and Rivers – and the tournament is expected to start on December 7 and end 10 days later.
Without any funds or sponsors coming in, Red Skins will have to foot the bill from their pockets for the tournament which will see teams from 10 countries converge on Maseru.
Among the participating nations, Botswana is expected to bring the biggest contingent with 12 teams, with Zambia following closely behind with nine teams while Zimbabwe is set to be represented by six teams.
Two weeks ago, Red Skins participated in the Elite Cup in Gauteng, South Africa, which was hosted by Aqua Darshan Volleyball.
Red Skins hoped to win the tournament and return home with a hefty jackpot but they only collected M5 000 which was won by the men’s team.
A gala dinner that Red Skins hosted last weekend also failed to generate income due to low attendance and speaking to thepost on Tuesday, the club’s vice-captain, Moleboheng Mofolo, said they will have to push on with what they have to host the tournament.
Mofolo said they no longer have time to come up with other means to raise funds.
“Tournaments will require us to find sponsorships and we do not have time now, we have to focus and train well,” Mofolo said.
“Our coach already told us to camp from this week but rain is our biggest challenge because we cannot continue with the training,” she added.
Mofolo said Red Skins are fortunate that participating teams are going to take care of their accommodation and catering. She said if Red Skins had to provide those services, they would not have been able to manage.
She pleaded with individuals, organisations and companies to help the team, whether it is by offering accommodation, food, or whatever little they may have.
Giants avoid each other in Top 4 clash
Women Super League (WSL) giants Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) Ladies and Kick4Life Ladies have avoided each other in the WSL Top 4 knockout competition.
The two-day showpiece takes centre stage this weekend at Bambatha Tšita Sports Arena and it will see last season’s top four finishers in the league – LDF, Kick4Life, Lijabatho and Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) Ladies – go head-to-head for bragging rights.
The draw for the competition took place last Friday and the semi-finals will see LDF go up against Lijabatho while Kick4Life will take on LMPS Ladies.
Both semi-finals will be played on Saturday with the tournament culminating the following day.
Sunday’s proceedings will kick-off with a third-place playoff game to determine who walks away with the bronze medals before the final later in the day.
All four games over the two days will be streamed on the FIFA+ website and the WSL Top 4 will usher in a new sponsor this year.
In the past, the Lesotho Football Association (LEFA) fully bankrolled the competition, however, Computer Business Solutions (CBS) has come on board with a sponsorship for the first time.
The competition’s prize monies have not been revealed because they are still being finalised, but, speaking at last Friday’s draw, LEFA’s associations secretary general, Mokhosi Mohapi, said the relationship with CBS is one that sport should engage in.
Mohapi added his hopes that the relationship will be a long-term one.
“While others are busy at their thing, we should really grow ours so that when their distraction finally ends, they find us as united as we can be as the football community,” Mohapi said.
“(We should be) united by the efforts and inputs that emanate from the business community, especially when it is a truly Lesotho business entity because other (foreign entities) are here to take money,” he said.
Addressing CBS as the tournament’s sponsor, Mohapi said: “We are thankful as LEFA for your initiative; (we) hope you will be in this marriage quite long. We know we are just testing the waters but we have a lot that can entice you to stay longer, not only my command but the instruments that we have.”
Mohapi said LEFA’s dream is that in two years’ time all league matches will be streaming on the FIFA+ platform which was launched last April by football’s world governing body to increase exposure of men and women’s football around the globe.
Currently, only three grounds in the country have the structures for broadcasting; Bambatha as well as the grounds at LDF and Lesotho Correctional Service grounds, and all are in Maseru.
LEFA plans to add more grounds to the list with the DIFA facilities in Maputsoe and Mohale’s Hoek set to be the first to follow suit.
“All our women’s competitions, cup competitions and (Vodacom) Premier League matches that will be played in those stadia that have our infrastructure – we will be able to stream those games internationally,” Mohapi said.
“We have extended our footprint,” he added.
“We are now doing LDF – we have already put up the structure – then we are moving to Maputsoe and, hopefully, Mohale’s Hoek. It is our desire that in two years’ time we will hopefully cover all the matches and put them on the FIFA+ streaming platform.”
WSL Top 4 fixtures:
Lijabatho Ladies vs. LDF Ladies
LMPS Ladies vs. Kick4Life Ladies
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