SETSOTO Stadium was brought to a standstill on Tuesday evening as defending Econet Premier League champions Bantu re-wrote the history books by dismissing Botswana’s Township Rollers to advance to the next stage of the Confederation of African Football (CAF) Champions’ League.
A Matšo Matebele beat their visitors 4-2 on penalties after a 2-2 draw on aggregate.
I asked the question last week whether the James Madidilane side had what it takes to break the jinx and be the first Lesotho team to advance to the next stage of the tournament after almost 15 years since LDF’s qualification.
They have indeed answered the question although they had to sweat for the victory which to me is understandable because beating Rollers wasn’t going to be a walk in a park. This is a team which reached the group stages of this continental showpiece in the last edition.
Once again Bantu proved to be compact on the day although they were caught napping on the 15th minute when Lemponye Tshireletso headed home to put Rollers in front.
However, they fought their way back into the match and Hlompho Kalake levelled matters from a well taken set piece.
Now Bantu are through to the next phase that means they are going to meet much more stronger opponents than Rollers and the million-dollar question is, is the Mafeteng outfit ready for the next challenge?
In two weeks’ Bantu travel to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) to face AS Vita who lost to the Raja Casablanca in the final of the CAF Confederations Cup this year.
This with no doubt going to be the toughest test for Bantu and it will take something special to pass through to the next stage.
I just hope that the Lesotho Football Association (LeFA) can help Bantu prepare thoroughly for this coming encounter.
AS Vita are not going to be push overs as they have won this tournament before and we all know that treatment of visiting teams is often unfavourable up north.
The good thing is that Bantu will be starting in Congo on the weekend of the 15 and 16 December 2018 with the return leg scheduled for the next weekend.
At this juncture I would also want to thank all the supporters who came out in great numbers to support Bantu on Tuesday.
It was such a great feeling that the nation stood behind their own and cheered them throughout the match. The stadium was almost filled to capacity and I think most importantly credit must go to Lioli supporters who stood with Bantu on the day. Being Bantu’s biggest rivals, it was a relief to see them cheer from their famous stand at the stadium.
Lioli president Lebohang Thotanyana was among other people seen celebrating with Bantu. It was such a great experience.
Before I bow out, let me call on the Deputy Prime Minister, Monyane Moleleki and the Minister of Sports, Mahali Phamatse, who have been regulars at the international matches to also ensure that teams have financial support.
Although they may not necessarily deep into their own pockets, they have the voice to lobby companies who have in the recent past been reluctant to invest in local sports. There is also need for policies and laws that strengthen corporate social activities.
I am aware that Phamotse was not at the stadium on Tuesday but her deputy Rethabile Mahlompho Mokaeane was present on the day.
Sport is no longer a recreational activity only and our government must start treating it as a business which it is. I am sure that the ministers have seen, at the few regional matches that they have watched, how serious other countries are when it comes to sports.
Please honourable ministers, your presence alone is not enough.