TODAY all roads lead to Setsoto Stadium for this afternoon’s CAF Champions League preliminary round first leg clash between premier league champions, Bantu, and Swazi club, Mbabane Swallows.
The Mafeteng outfit will play the return fixture in Mbabane, Swaziland on 21 February.
This will be A Matšo Matebele’s second dance in the continental showpiece, having made their first appearance which ended in an agonizing aggregate 0-1 loss in 2015 to Gabonese side, As Mangasport.
Army side, LDF, were the last local club to make it past the group stages in 2002 when they accounted for Mogoditshane Fighters of Botswana.
Since then the past 16 years have yielded perennial heartache for local football fans as our teams have been taking turns to make early exits.
We all would therefore want to see Bantu go one better this time around but the million dollar question is whether or not the Mafeteng giants have what it takes to break the jinx and waltz into the next phase?
On paper, Bantu have enough quality to rise to the occasion and send Swallows to the cleaners.
The likes of Lindokuhle Phongulwa, Hlompho Kalake, Litšepe Marabe, Thapelo Mokhehle, Tsietsi Khooa, Tsietsi Motšeare, Lazola Tjokotjokwana are players who can hold their own even in the South African premier league.
While there have been understandable concerns about Bantu’s far from convincing displays in the domestic league, particularly in the second round, the fact that Bantu forwards have been banging in the goals should inspire hope.
Tjokotjokwana and Motšeare have being in great form as has been Litšepe who will unfortunately miss the first leg match on account of the red card he received against Mangasport at Setsoto Stadium all those years ago.
Swallows are by no means pushovers and Bantu can only undermine them at their own peril.
The Swazi club have a rich history in their domestic league which includes six titles and three Swazi Cup successes. Umkhotho Kashaka (loosely translated to mean ‘the spear of Shaka, the Zulu king) have five albeit unsuccessful CAF Champions League appearances. Only once have they succeeded in negotiating the preliminary stages.
Having said all this, it must also be pointed out that there is not much if at all that separates the Swazi league and our own. This means that there is no reason for Bantu to lose against Swallows.
That is not say that Bantu will have a stroll in the park. Victory can only be achieved if the coaching duo of Bob Mafoso and James Madidilane do their homework and the players come to the party.
I sign off by wishing Bantu the best of luck. Go and break a leg- not in the literal sense. The entire nation is behind you this afternoon.