MANY doubted the pedigree of Tsatsi James Madidilane when he first arrived to coach Bantu.
This was understandable given that A Matšo Matebele were a big but troubled team and he had only been coaching in the youth structures of South African premiership side Bloemfontein Celtic.
But the Free State-born former Bafana Bafana international defied all odds and led Bantu to the title in his maiden season.
And he became only the second foreign coach after the late Styles Phumo to win the league title in Lesotho.
He won 19 games, drew five and lost only two out of 26 matches on his way to the title and it is worth mentioning that he fell in the semifinals of the Top 4 and Top 8 tournaments.
Popularly known as Ntate Moruti during his playing days, Madidilane reminisced on his journey from the pitch to the touchline in Lesotho in this interview with Sunday Express (SE) sports reporter Moorosi Tsiane.
SE: What a season it has been coach and congratulations for winning the league.
Madidilane: Thank you my brother it has indeed been a good and tough season but thanks to God we emerged victorious.
SE: How did you end up coaching Bantu?
Madidilane: I was recommended by Lehlohonolo Seema who I worked with at Bloemfontein Celtic and Bantu management approached the Celtic chairman who asked if I was interested in coming to Lesotho.
SE: How easy was it to leave South Africa, a country that is known to be better in all sporting aspects and come to coach here?
Madidilane: It was not an easy decision but I still needed to grow as a coach.
And I wanted to get out of my comfort zone and look out for new challenges that is why I accepted the offer and I don’t regret my decision.
SE: You are the second South African coach to win the premier league in Lesotho but the first to win it in his maiden season. What does that mean to you?
Madidilane: I am so overwhelmed and I still can’t believe that we managed to win the league.
I must give credit to my assistant Bob Mafoso who from day one made it easy for me in this country. He has been more like a brother to me. This is more than what I expected in my first season considering the fact that the team finished seventh last season and we were on a re-building exercise.
SE: Just give us a summary of what this season was like to you.
Madidilane: [sighs} It was not easy but at the same time it was good because it was what we needed to grow as a technical team and players. There were times that I felt like packing my things and leaving but we soldiered on and the results are there for everyone to see.
Again, I think it was just us (Bantu) against the world as most people didn’t want us to succeed for different reasons and some would attack us but we ignored that and kept on doing our work.
SE: Now that you mention it, what was really happening between you and some of the local coaches?
Madidilane: I really don’t know what was happening but you could hear that some were not happy with us and were all out to make sure we don’t succeed.
This was my first season and I don’t know their relations with Bantu.
But then again this is football, it is just a game and doesn’t have to make us enemies. In fact I came to work not to make friends or enemies and if people have their reasons to hate me there is nothing that I can do.
However, my special thanks goes to the likes of Likhopo mentor Tšepo Hlojeng and LCS coach Mpitsa Marai as those guys made me to feel at home and I am truly humbled.
SE: And how did you overcome the challenges?
Madidilane: The unity among the players, technical team and management made it impossible for outsiders to tear us apart. We had a team of people who understood each other and could just die for each other and that’s what defines us.
The other thing is that we were able to release some players and leave a few to help rebuild the team because some of the experienced players have big egos and it becomes difficult to manage them.
But we are pleased that we had Tlali Maile and Thapelo Mokhehle as the leaders.
Another important thing is that together with ntate Bob, we sat down and drew up a work plan. I had a little knowledge of Lesotho football but Bob was the mastermind and we implemented the plan from our first match.
I remember after the first match, a friendly against Township Rollers of Botswana, it became clear that things were not going to be easy.
The target was to at least finish in the top four but we won the league against our expectations.
SE: Having played in South Africa, what can you say about Lesotho football in terms of administration and talent?
Madidilane: In terms of administration I think there is still more that needs to be done because the way teams are run affects players.
Lesotho has talent and in almost every team I can pick a few players who can play in the South African Premier League and command starting berths.
There is Tšoanelo Koetle, Masiu Masiu Hlompho Kalake and Thapelo Mokhehle just to name a few quality players. But unfortunately our administration is not doing enough.
I think we all need to understand that it is all our responsibility as coaches and administrators to help players reach their full potential.
It is our job to ensure our players live decent lives; we can help them by taking them to trials anywhere in Africa or abroad and help them to understand the importance of discipline because their failure is our failure.
SE: You signed a one-year contract with Bantu so what is the way forward from here?
Madidilane: Now I am going back to Celtic because we haven’t discussed anything with Bantu but if they are willing to give me another contract I will gladly accept it because it will also be a good challenge to play in the CAF competition.
SE: Is there any chance of you coaching another team in the country?
Madidilane: Not at all. I don’t see myself coaching any other team besides Bantu except of course the national team.
But even that won’t be now but maybe in the coming years.
SE: Congratulations once again coach and good luck in your next assignments.
Madidilane: Thank you ntate.