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Bantu face test

Teboho Molapo

MASERU — Bantu take to the field today against premiership champions Lioli without talismanic captain Moses Ramafole.
Ramafole has been outstanding this season but suffered a groin injury in Bantu’s 1-2 Vodacom Soccer Spectacular loss against LCS a fortnight ago and is expected to be out for a further two weeks.
And he expressed disappointment at missing the game against his former team.
Ramafole spent two fruitless seasons at Lioli before joining Bantu at the beginning of this season. 
“I wanted to play so much — Lioli owe me a lot. It is disappointing because this is the match that I have been looking forward to so much this season, especially as we are playing at home,” Ramafole said.
Ramafole was full of praise for Lioli ahead what he said was a “do-or-die match”.
“Lioli are a very good team. They have a very good defence in Thabo Masualle and Brown Dash — you can say that defence is for the national team,” he said.
“Their midfield of Congo (Malebanye Ramoabi) on the right and Shabba (Lehlohonolo Mpopo), is equally good,” Ramafole said.
Ramafole pointed out that while Lioli have not yet hit the heights of last season, the Berea giants are still third in the Premiership — just three points behind pacesetters Matlama but with a game in hand.
In their last match, the champions demolished Majantja 4-0 in Mohale’s Hoek.
“I watched Lioli when they played Majantja and they scared me,” Ramafole admitted.
Today’s match is the first of a tough  period for Bantu — they play LCS before facing LMPS and Ramafole admits it is a testing time for his team.
Bantu have started well, only losing twice —1-2 to Matlama in the league and the defeat to LCS — in all competitions this season.
But Ramafole says the team still has a long way to go.
“We can’t compete for the league yet; the Top Eight has to be our target,” Ramafole said.
“We are winning matches because of our team-spirit. I can’t say we are as good as such teams as Lioli, Matlama or LCS,” he said.
Ramafole downplayed suggestions of a title challenge.
“The second round is a long journey — that is where the men are separated from the boys.
“It is still too early to be talking about any team winning the championship. Our supporters feel we are good, but we are not. At the moment, we can’t compete with those teams that have real quality,” Ramafole said.  
And Ramafole offered support to Bantu coach, Bafokeng Mohapi who came under pressure after the side’s defeat in the Vodacom Soccer Spectacular.
“When a team has massive support, there is always pressure to win. Bantu is a district team, so everyone thinks they have a say on who should be playing,” Ramafole said.
“But the coach is the one who knows the team. A win is not something that comes easily — we are under so much pressure when 20 people are on the pitch at half-time, trying to tell the coach what to do. It is something that disappoints at times. My message to the fans is for them to be patient,” he said.
“There are still areas where we have to improve.”
But Bantu have to take care of immediate business.
They face champions Lioli and can they handle them without Ramafole?
“If I was playing, I would say, yes, we would win,” Ramafole joked.
“It’s up to the players who are in the team, on the day,” he said.

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