…as African Champions League draw looms
Inspirational captain, Tlali Maile, is hoping the Gods smile on Bantu when the Confederation of African Football (Caf) conducts the 2015 African Champions League draw in Egypt tomorrow.
Maile—the defensive rock upon which Premier League giants Bantu are built—says he hopes the Mafeteng-based outfit are not paired against teams from South Africa, Zimbabwe or Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) as they always give Lesotho sides a torrid time.
Caf’s annual showcase, whose winners pocket M10million, gets underway in February 2015 and Maile, as well as the rest of the Bantu family, would be keeping their fingers crossed that they get a favourable draw.
Maile on Wednesday told the Sunday Express: “The first round of the season has just ended and as you can see, we are in second spot on the 14-team table and trailing Lioli by seven points. That is a clear sign that there is still a lot we need to do to ensure we are back at our best. The second round of the season is 13 matches long, and we are hoping to cover lost ground in those games and retain our Premier League title.
“However, our immediate concern right now is the Caf draw in Cairo on Monday. We have got to break the Champions League jinx and be the first local team to go beyond the opening round of this very prestigious competition. Bantu have the quality to achieve this milestone, and we are all hoping to get a draw that doesn’t throw us at the deep end at the early stage of the competition.
“The boys, management and everyone else here at Bantu are all determined to make history in this tournament and this will largely depend on the draw that we will be getting come Monday,” Maile said.
According to Maile, the toughest opponents usually come from South Africa, Democratic Republic of Congo and Zimbabwe, and is praying Bantu are not drawn against any of them.
“The toughest opponents, to Lesotho teams, are usually teams from South Africa, Zimbabwe and the DRC, so if by luck, we avoid them, we can pull a miracle because once you are past the opening stage, anything can happen.”
Maile further said since the registration of players who will play in the competition closes tomorrow, chances are there would not be any additions to Bantu’s current squad.
“It is clear our current team will be going into the Champions League without any additions, so what remains is for us to work hard and be content with what we have.
“We have enough quality in this team; I have every confidence in our ability to do well and hopefully, like I said, we also get a favourable draw to help us scale the first hurdle and gain the much-needed confidence going forward.
“We would want to make our country proud, and hopefully, we will do so sooner rather than later.”
On his part, Bantu General Manager, Khabisi Molantoa, said the inclusion of former national team coach, Leslie Notši, as advisor, would help the team in the continental championship since it is contested for by Africa’s best clubs.
“Our technical team has requested that we get the expertise and assistance of an experienced coach to help them during the continental competition,” Molantoa said.
“Notši is a very experienced coach, and I think his involvement with the team will be vital if we are serious about conquering Africa.
“But it must be clear that he is not going to form part of the technical team, but will have a special role, a special assignment, of assessing teams that we will be drawn against.”
Molantoa added Bantu did not go on a festive season break to ensure the players remained in shape and focused on the very important task ahead.
“We have not sent the players away; we don’t want them to relax because it is really going to be tough for us since the aim is not to exit the Caf Champions League tournament in the first round,” said Molantoa.
“It is true teams from the DRC, Zimbabwe and South Africa are tough opponents for Lesotho sides so if we are lucky to avoid them in the early stage, we stand a chance of realising our dream—which is going all the way to the final of the tournament.
“Lesotho football has developed over recent years. Who thought our national team, Likuena, would reach the group stage of the 2015 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers?
“We can spring a similar surprise as Bantu, but much depends on the draw that we will be getting.”