Quote of the week

“To be a great champion you must believe you are the best. If you're not, pretend you are.” – Muhammad Ali

Friday, November 23, 2018

Champions League opportunity knocks for Bantu against Township Rollers

By Mohloai Mpesi
Bantu are back in the CAF Champions League hoping to go one better...
Lesotho champions Bantu begin their 2018/19 CAF Champions League adventure next Tuesday against Botswana titleholders Township Rollers.

The first leg of the preliminary round tie will take place in Botswana at the Lobatse Sports Complex with kick-off set for 19:30. A Matšo Matebele will then host the return game a week later.

After running away with the league title last season, this is the moment Bantu have been waiting for. Dominating the Econet Premier League is cool, but becoming the first Lesotho club to win a Champions League tie in almost 20 years is a prize A Matšo Matebele probably want even more.  

The last time a Lesotho side progressed past the Champions League’s preliminary stage was in 2002 when LDF beat Botswana’s Mogoditshane Fighters 2-1 on aggregate.

Ironically, Bantu’s clash against Rollers is the first time a Lesotho side faces Botswana opposition in the competition since LDF’s triumph.

Could lightning strike twice?

A Matšo Matebele coach James Madidilane believes so.

“It’s not a good or bad draw for us, what we have to do is prepare thoroughly for this clash,” Madidilane said.

“We have to be ready because we have not been doing as well as we would like in our domestic league but come the 27th we will be ready. It’s unfortunate that we haven’t been at the level that we want in the league. But we have been preparing and I believe that we will get to the shape that we want by game-time.”

The anticipation amongst fans in Mafeteng is definitely at all-time high with the tie against Rollers just days away.

Bantu's fans are expectant, ready to roar for their heroes...
Their team is making a second successive appearance in Africa’s premier club competition and they are hoping for a better outcome than in January when A Matšo Matebele suffered a heart-breaking away goals defeat to Mbabane Swallows of eSwatini at the same stage.

After losing 4-2 in the first leg at Setsoto Stadium, Bantu then produced a stirring display in the return to win 3-1. But it wasn’t enough. Bantu lost on away goals and Mbabane Swallows ultimately went on to qualify for the lucrative Champions League group stage.

Like Bantu, Rollers are making back-to-back appearances in Africa’s premier club competition. Unlike Bantu, they are coming off an impressive 2018 campaign in which Popa advanced to the group stages for the first time in club history.

In the groups Rollers were thrown into a tough pool that included eventual 2018 champions Esperance of Tunisia and fellow finalists Al Ahly of Egypt. However, the Botswana side more than held their own and even held Esperance to a goalless draw.

Tuesday’s tie, therefore, is a big test of Bantu’s growth as a club and from January’s loss to Mbabane Swallows.

According to Madidilane, his side are better for the learning experience against the eSwatini side.

“We lost the first leg at home (against Mbabane Swallows) because of the stage,” Madidilane said.

“For most of our players it was their first experience (in the Champions League). We’re coming to this game (against Rollers) as our second time in CAF competition and there is an experience and maturity from our players and the technical team. I believe we are going to use all we have learned in this encounter against Township Rollers.”

Ever detailed, Madidilane has been studying Rollers.

“I have been watching their videos and we have watched some of their matches just to have an idea,” he said.

“With what we have now I believe we have something that we can use against Rollers.”

If that “something” is good enough to navigate past Rollers, Bantu will face AS Vita of the Democratic Republic of Congo for a place in the group stage.

Madidilane said his charges are determined to break Lesotho’s Champions League duck.

“Last time we were knocked out at the first hurdle but this time we are going to make sure we pass the preliminary stage,” the Bantu mentor said.

“It is not going to be easy because we are playing against a team which made it to the group stages of the competition last season,” Madidilane added.

“It’s a challenge to us because we want to be the team from Lesotho to make it to the group stages and it’s a steep road to climb. But are going to give our best to retry and win the first round.”

This 2018/19 Champions League season is a unique one with the campaign following a transitional calendar which will allow CAF’s club competitions to switch from a February to November schedule to an August to May schedule from next year.

The 2018/19 competition, as a result, is a condensed one and will end next May before the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations in Cameroon. The 2019/20 Champions League season will then start after the AFCON and follow CAF’s new calendar.
Last time Bantu came so close... yet so far against Mbabane Swallows
Bantu will be making their third CAF Champions League appearance in club history following narrow losses to Gabon’s Mangasport in 2015 and Mbabane Swallows earlier this year.

Madidilane, Bantu and their legions of fans hope it will be third time lucky for A Matšo Matebele in Africa.

Bantu v Township Rollers fixtures:
1st leg: Tuesday, 27 November (Lobatse)
2nd leg: Tuesday, 4 December (Setsoto)

Bantu in the CAF Champions League:
2018: Bantu 5-5 Mbabane Swallows (Swaziland)
2015: Bantu 0-1 AS Mangasport (Gabon)

Lesotho in Champions League in Preliminary Round since 1986:
Preliminary Round
Mbabane Swallows (Swaziland) 5-5 Bantu
CAPS United (Zimbabwe) 2-1 Lioli
Vital’O (Burundi) 2-2 Lioli
AS Mangasport (Gabon) 1-0 Bantu
Primeiro de Agosto (Angola) 3-2 Lioli
Dynamos (Zimbabwe) 3-1 LCS
URA (Uganda) 3-0 LCS
SuperSport United (RSA) 3-2 Matlama
Did not take part
Did not take part
Platinum Stars (RSA) 4-1 LCS
Zanaco (Zambia) 1-0 Likhopo
Mamelodi Sundowns (RSA) 4-0 Likhopo
CAPS United (Zimbabwe) 8-4 LDF
Orlando Pirates (RSA) 7-0 Matlama
Did not take part
Mogoditshane Fighters (Botswana) 1-2 LDF
Did not take part
AS Fortior (Madagascar) 0-0 (penalties) LDF
Notwane (Botswana) 2-4 LDF
Mbabane Swallows (Swaziland) 1-6 LDF
Limbe Leaf Wanderers (Malawi) 2-5 Rovers
CS Saint-Denis (Reunion) 10-1 Majantja
JS Saint-Pierroise (Reunion) 6-2 LDF
Mamelodi Sundowns (RSA) 5-1 Arsenal
Sunrise Flacq United (Mauritius) 4-3 Matlama
Eleven Arrows (Namibia) 0-4 Arsenal
Pamba SC (Tanzania) 3-0 LDF
Denver Sundowns (Swaziland) 0-4 Arsenal
Botswana Defence Force XI 5-2 Matlama
Sunrise Flacq United (Mauritius) 3-2 LDF
Gaborone United (Botswana) 0-3 Matlama
Maji Maji (Tanzania) 7-2 Lioli

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