MASERU — History beckons for Bantu and LCS when they clash in the Independence Cup final at the Setsoto Stadium on Saturday.
Bantu have not tasted the sweetness of success since winning the Independence showpiece in 1997.
Subsequent years have seen a painful journey, including relegation to the second tier in 2005, but come Saturday A Matšo Matebele will again be on the biggest stage of all fighting to capture the first piece of silverware on offer this season.
LCS on the other hand are looking to claim their first Independence Cup title since 2004 and add to what is a bulging trophy cabinet.
Victory in Saturday’s final would bring Masheshena their seventh major trophy in the past seven years, a run of success not seen since the dominance of LDF in the 90s.
It all sets it up for a humdinger final at the national stadium.
“We have prepared the best we can for this match so far and we will continue to prepare until the day of the match,” Bantu coach Ntebele “Tata” Taole told the Lesotho Times in an interview on Tuesday.
“We will do all we can to be ready, it is an important match for the club.”
That it is.
Despite their recent pre-eminence Bantu are still the underdogs.
The Mafeteng side, for the record, reached the final after defeating LDF 6-5 on penalties in a thrilling semi-final played last Tuesday.
They face a Masheshena side which, thanks to goals from Thulo Ranchobe and Lawrence Molengoane, overcame Linare 2-1 in the other semi-final and has lost just twice in the past 16 months in all competitions.
Both those losses came at the hands of LDF.
Nonetheless, for Taole, who assumed the reins at Bantu last month, success has always been a minimum requirement.
Having led Matlama to a league and cup double in the 2009/10 season he is aiming to work another miracle in Mafeteng.
“The players are still getting used to my methods. Not everything has gone in but it doesn’t mean that I’m afraid do go into battle with this team. Not everything goes immediately but slowly we are getting there. I only see good things in this
team,” Taole said
LCS’s technical director Mafa “Ribbo” Ramakau is no stranger to the big occasion either and knows a thing or two about winning.
After leading Masheshena to the premiership title last season he has been given the mantle of technical director with Mosholi “Shoes” Mokhothu as the coach.
“I know it is their first final in a long time but we will both be playing on the same field. We have seen them, they play very well. We have to be ready for a tough match,” Ramakau said.
The fact LCS have superior big-match experience than Bantu is undisputed. But Bantu have turned Lesotho’s football upside-down over the past two years.
They have assembled a star-studded line-up. Tlali Mali, Tefo “Chico” Maipato, Mosiuoa Boseka, Lekhanya Lekhanya, Mpho Matsinyane, the names roll off the tongue.
It is safe to say Bantu can compare with the pedigree of Moitheri Ntobo, Thulo Ranchobe and Khoto Sesinyi in the LCS ranks.
Therefore with such quality in both ranks the margin for error will be minimal on Saturday.
“We are going to attack. We are also going to fight in the middle of the field. We want to deny them space to play in that part of the field because they have the ability to thread dangerous balls to the front line,” Ramakau said.
“There are a couple of dangerous players, some of them I coached in Mazenod,” Ramakau said.
Bantu’s approach will be significant as well. Against LDF there were periods when they were irresistible but lapses could have cost them.
Taole points to over-exuberance as a reason and says they will have to keep to their systems if they are to win.
“In the LDF game my boys desperately wanted a win so we got sucked into the playing style of LDF of playing long balls down the field. That is not something we have practised. After we agreed we went back to the playing style we know and we won the game,” Taole said.
“It’s important for us to play the game that we know how to play. We want to impose our game on LCS.”
Both sides’ plans have been negated somewhat by injuries. Bantu have an injury concern over Brown Makobe who limped off last week with a muscle strain while Thabane Rankara and Poloko Mohale are doubts for Masheshena.
But still there remain many intriguing subplots to Saturday’s final.
Will Bantu contain the red-hot form of Ranchobe? Can LCS get the better of Bantu’s in-form Daniel Jousse? Who will win the midfield battle?
“The match against LCS is going to be a very enjoyable match. But it will be very tough. Masheshena also expect to win. It’s been a long time that Bantu hasn’t won a trophy and we sat down and talked with the players. Its time that Bantu won a trophy and it will be an honour to win the Independence Cup,” Taole said.
Saturday’s final is momentous.
It could confirm the return of LCS to domination of Lesotho football or herald the start of a new era of success for Bantu.
Linare vs LDF
Bantu vs. LCS