Massive test for Bantu


Mikia Kalati

Bantu face one of their biggest tests this weekend when they host Gabon’s Mangasport in the African Champions League preliminary round second leg qualifier at Setsoto Stadium.

After going down 1-0 in the first leg a fortnight ago away in Gabon, our defending Vodacom Premier League champions would have to score twice without conceding any goals to advance to the next stage of the continental showcase.

This is no easy task, whichever way one looks at it, hence my decision to dedicate this column to A Matšo Matebele in the hope they are going to make us proud come Sunday.

We all know local teams have been very disappointing in this competition and I sincerely hope it will be a different story with Bantu.

I honestly believe they did quite well in the first leg match after travelling for almost two days to reach the home of AS Mangasport, which means they were tired when they eventually took to the pitch.

I have always been worried about how our teams perform away from home, with the heavy losses they usually suffer making it difficult for a comeback in the return leg.

But with such a narrow loss, Bantu stand a good chance of overhauling the deficit and progressing in the tournament at the expense of the Gabonese side.

Yet for this to happen, the team needs a good game-plan, which includes ensuring the players are not over-confident simply because they would be playing before their own fans.

I would suggest a cautious approach to the game on Sunday, but with an acute awareness that two goals would still be needed in order to go past this preliminary stage.

Our teams have previously overcome first-leg defeats and a good example is that of our national team, Likuena.

After losing 1-0 away to Liberia in the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations penultimate preliminaries, Likuena beat the highly-regarded Liberians 2-0 here at home to set a date with Kenya.

The good thing for Bantu is players such as Thabo Masualle and Sepiriti Malefane were part of the Likuena team at the time, so they can share that experience with their teammates and work the same magic against Mangasport.

Bantu also have enough experience in their squad and the fact that striker Litšepe Marabe has continued to score is another reason to believe they can beat the Gabonese giants on Sunday.

The hitman scored a blinder in Saturday’s 1-1 draw against LCS at LCS Ground—his 15th league goal of the season.

Marabe is one of those players who can rise to the occasion especially when his confidence is so high and he is enjoying the form of his life.

The other comforting thought is he has done it before on the big stage and one recalls his strike for Matlama in the 2-1 win over South Africa’s SuperSport United at Setsoto in the 2011 edition of the same Champions League. Unfortunately, Tse Putsoa lost 3-2 on aggregate, and crashed out of the tournament.

Marabe was at it again in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers when his wonder-strike earned Likuena a 1-1 draw against Zambia at Setsoto stadium.

That was in 2013 and against the very same Zambian team that had been crowned African champions the previous year.

What I’m simply saying is that Marabe will be one of the players carrying the hopes of many Basotho on Sunday, but for him to be effective, his teammates would also have to come to the party.

Meanwhile, I was also very touched to learn that Bantu management have teamed up with their supporters to raise the M85 000 that injured striker, Tsebang ‘Owen’ Lebata, needs to have an operation on his troublesome knee.

We all know what ‘Owen’ can do on his day, which is why I am happy his team is doing something to ensure he plays the game once again.

Lebata was the Premiership’s top goal-scorer last season and also voted the league’s Player’s Player of the Year.

I became worried when I heard him say he was considering leaving the game due to the injury, which has been troubling him since 2010.

This boy still has a lot to offer his country and team and I’m happy with the initiative taken to help him overcome his nightmare.

And as for Sunday against Mangasport, I say Good Luck A Matšo Matebele. Do us proud!




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