SOUTH African-born coaches seldom leave their country to seek greener soccer pastures in Lesotho, but former Bloemfontein Celtic defender, James Madidilane is one of the few exceptions to the general rule.
The Free State-born Madidilane who was capped once by South Africa’s senior Bafana Bafana side and who also captained that country’s junior teams, took the rarely trodden path to Lesotho and joined Bantu to get his coaching career off the ground.
This was after a serious conversation with former Lesotho international, Lehlohonolo Seema, who he played with at South African giants Bloemfontein Celtic, convinced him that coming to the Mountain Kingdom would give his career a lift.
Now, eight months into the hot seat as Bantu coach, Madidilane can only look back with satisfaction on the decision that is increasingly looking like a masterstroke as he stands on the cusp of etching his name in the history books of the Mafeteng side and the Vodacom Premier League by winning the title in his maiden season.
Only four games stand between Madidilane and history. His side holds a five point lead over defending champions Lioli and if they can stay the course, Madidilane would certainly be closer to his dream of being remembered in the same way as his late former mentor, April ‘Styles’ Phumo, who is an icon in Lesotho after his achievements with the now defunct Arsenal side.
“I came to Lesotho to learn, not for money,” Madidilane told the Lesotho Times in an interview this week.
“I was told a lot of stories before I came that there is no money in football, but for me it was not all about that, but learning and I have learnt a lot as a coach and human being while the journey continues.”
Madidilane, who left a coaching job at Bloemfontein Celtic junior club, said he was surprised that he hit the ground running in a campaign that also saw his side reach the semi-finals of the LNIG Top 8.
“First of all, I’m very grateful to my former teammate Ntate Seema for recommending me to Bantu because without him I wouldn’t have ended up at the club. I really thank him for everything.
“I must all thank my assistant, Ntate Bob Mafoso, the management of the club, players and the supporters because without their support and assistance, it would not have been possible to achieve what we have since the start of the season.”
He said it was a blessing to work with Mafoso “because there is a lot of backstabbing in our profession but I work with an honest man, who has assisted me to settle down and enjoy my work”.
“We have an open relationship and that has helped us a lot.
“The players also contributed a lot in helping us to be stable as they welcomed me with both hands to make my work so easy to lead them.”
Madidilane whose previous coaching experience was at Roses United and the Bloemfontein Celtic youth ranks, said he was not in a hurry to return to his country.
“Yes, I would love to go back and coach in the (South African) Premier Soccer League or even the junior national team because I think I can do very well at that level.
“But I’m not in a rush and I’m still on a learning curve. I may consider in five years’ time though I might start as an assistant.”
He said his stay had already been a success as he had also already acquired a ‘B’ license coaching course.
“Though I’m happy with what I have achieved in my short time in Lesotho, I still have a lot to do to be remembered in the same way as my former mentor Ntate Styles Phumo who is an icon in Lesotho.”
Phumo led Arsenal to numerous trophies in the early 1990s before reaching the quarterfinals of African Champions league with the same side. Phumo also coached Likuena and South Africa’s Bafana Bafana.