….as Bantu vow to make it historic four Independence Cup wins in a row
Bantu captain, Tlali Maile, has sounded the battle-cry ahead of the weekend four-team Independence Cup showdown at Setsoto stadium.
Bantu have won the last three editions of the annual championship, which features the top four teams from the previous Premier League season and according to Maile, the Mafeteng giants are looking at winning the trophy for the fourth time in a row.
A Matšo Matebele face Matlama on Saturday at 1pm, in the first of the two semi-finals of the tournament, which is jointly sponsored by Metropolitan Lesotho and Standard Lesotho Bank.
Lioli then lock horns with Linare in the second semi at 3pm, with the final and third-place playoff taking place the following day at the same Setsoto stadium.
However, Maile believes Bantu have enough quality to go all the way and clinch their fourth Independence Cup on the trot.
“We have put our success of the previous seasons behind us because it’s in the past and the focus should be on doing well in this year’s competition,” Maile told the Lesotho Times this week.
“It is important that our feet, as players, remain on the ground because being overconfident simply because of history, can backfire on the team.
“However, having said that, we are all aware how important this tournament is on our football calendar and the boys are very motivated to do well and win this competition again.
“I believe in this group of players that we have and know quite well that every single one of us is mentally and physically ready for the tournament.”
The Bantu skipper further said he was not worried about their unexpected 0-1 loss to LMPS last week in a league match—a defeat he insists had been an “eye-opener”.
“We went through a rough patch around this time last year, but were able to bounce back and win the league title, which was the first for the club in 87 years. I think it will be the same case again this coming weekend, where the boys are going to rise to the occasion and get the job done. The defeat against LMPS last week showed how being over-confident can backfire, which is why it was such an eye-opener for us. ”
Matlama captain, Phafa Tšosane, on the other hand, told the Lesotho Times that the tournament could not have come at a better time for the county’s most successful team, which has won a record nine league titles to-date.
“This is a chance for us to show that we are still a force to reckon with in this country,” Tšosane said.
“We are ready for Bantu, and we all know how heated our matches against them have always been and we don’t expect any different this time around.
“Come Saturday, we will go down to the pitch for nothing less than a win because this is the trophy that will be the beginning of the return of our glory days as Matlama.
“Our form has slowly improved this season and we are getting better with each match. We might have started the new season a bit slowly, but we are getting there, and you will see this on Saturday when we meet Bantu in the semifinal, and then the final on Sunday.”
And for star-studded Lioli, the Independence competition is a chance to end Bantu’s dominance of the championship, whose winner gets M100 000; runners-up M60 000; third place M40 000 and fourth place, M30 000.
“We haven’t started the 2014/15 Premier League season the way we would have wanted,” said defender Jerry Kamele.
“But the fact that we haven’t lost any of our four league matches (winning three and drawing once) means we are not doing that badly although we would have wanted to win with larger margins.
“The Independence Cup gives us the chance to reassert ourselves as the giants of the local game, so come Sunday, we hope to be lifting the trophy.”
Kamele, who is also a member of the national team, Likuena, said he had “a lot of respect” for Linare, but still believed Lioli had enough quality to take the game.
“We know Linare have not been doing well in their league matches of late (winning two matches and losing four), but I have since learnt that form plays no part whenever the two teams clash. It doesn’t matter whether the other one is struggling or doing well; matches between Lioli and Linare are always very passionate affairs, which is why I expect a tough encounter against them on Saturday.”
For Kamele, the match would also be very emotional as his younger brother, Khubetsoana, would be in the Linare line-up, should he be selected.
The young Kamele joined Linare from Joy FC at the start of the current season and has been very impressive for the Hlotse-based outfit despite the team’s recent poor run of results.
“I’m very proud of him for what he has achieved at his age. However, the brotherhood will be suspended during the game as I want to play in the final and win this trophy,” Kamele said.
“It will be the first time I play against him at this level, so I’m looking forward to the match if he makes the team, that is.”
On his part, Linare captain and last season’s Vodacom Lesotho Footballer-of-the-Year, Mabuti Potloane, said this was a chance for the players to reward their long-suffering supporters.
“We have had a painful start to the new season, losing four matches in a row in our league matches. But we managed to end that disappointing run with the 3-0 win over Nyenye Rovers last Sunday and I think the happy days are back for us as players and our supporters,” Potloane said.
“We had to work extra hard, and luckily, the win came at the right time. We will be heading to the Independence Cup tournament high on confidence, which is always good when you go into such big events.
“I am aware we will be coming against a very strong Lioli side, but still, I have confidence in the team that we have.”
Meanwhile, in addition to the teams’ prizes, there would also be individual awards of between M1000 and M1500.
Bantu have won the Independence Cup since the 2011 edition while Lioli were the winners in 2010.