LAST week, the curtain finally came down on a highly entertaining 2016/17 Vodacom Premier League season and Bantu were worthy title winners on the last day.
They made light work of Kick4life who they dispatched 3-0 at Maputsoe DiFA Ground and the result rendered nearest challengers Lioli’s 2-0 triumph over Sky Battalion merely of academic interest as the Mafeteng side finished with an unassailable 61 points to Lioli’s 59.
This marked the end of an era for Lioli who had made the title their own, winning back to back titles in the past two seasons.
It remains to be seen if this was the beginning of a new era of Bantu dominance after the disappointment of last season where they finished a distant seventh.
What is certain however is that rookie coach James Madidilane will be in with a shout for the coach of the year accolade after revitalising the team and taking them to the Promised Land.
And no doubt some of the title-winning squad will also be fancying themselves for player of the season.
And speaking of which, it has become the norm that the talk always centres on midfielders and strikers while defenders hardly ever get a look-in.
It is my considered opinion that all that should change this season.
My pick for the biggest accolade is a 25-year old who wears the number 4 shirt for the black and gold outfit, Itumeleng Faleni.
The native of neighbouring South Africa played his heart out in the right back position for the champions.
And yes, before anyone says it, Faleni did not score goals by the bucketful but in addition to excelling in his right back role, he was also excellent going forward, weighing in with some match winning goals and vital assists.
Having watched him at A division side Van Rooyen United in a different role as an attacking midfielder, I can safely say that the player they call Kenny fitted into his new role like a duck taking to water.
He may not have been the most flamboyant player but his work rate in attack and defence was indispensable this season.
To fully understand his worth, it would be necessary to appreciate that Bantu’s success was built on team work more than it was on individual exploits.
That is not to say the team did not have the razzmatazz of flair players like Hlompho Kalake, Litsepe Marabe, Lindokuhle Phungulwa and Maloisane Ramasimong.
But such was the stellar contribution of Faleni that I have it on good authority that Likuena coach Moses Maliehe beat a path to the player’s door to persuade him into changing his citizenship so that he could feature for our senior soccer side.
I can’t say I am surprised as Faleni has proved to be one of the best full backs in our domestic league and it was only fair that Maliehe approached him considering that it would be a big ask for him to be considered for South Africa seeing that he is playing in a much lower league.
You might not be a Bantu fan but if you closed your eyes and imagined your favourite team with Kenny as its wingback, would it not be way better?
This is our own Dani Alves running at opponents and shooting from distance.
And it could still get better as he has age on his side.
And if you think he is not the best, think of how Bantu went from washed out also-rans before Falene’s arrival to title winners.
They will be the torch bearers in the CAF Champions League next season and thanks in no small measure to the consistent exploits of Faleni.
He may not be spectacular to watch, but he is as valuable as a diamond to his club and for that I put my money on him.
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