A former Bafana Bafana defender who previously coached amateur side Rose United is relishing the prospect of taking part in the CAF Champions League for a consecutive year with Lesotho champions Bantu FC.
Bantu have been drawn against Botswana champions Township Rollers and James Madidilane, a former Manning Rangers, Bloemfontein Celtic and Maritzburg United defender said this time they are wiser and much more experienced than last year.
Bantu were eliminated from the group play-off by Mbabane Swallows from Swaziland following a 5-5 aggregate score and lost on the away goal rule after handing Swallows a 3-1 beating in Mbabane, but it was not enough as they had lost 4-2 in Maseru.
“I would say we had stage fright against Swallows,” said Madidilane. “The previous year they had qualified for the group stages and had hammered Platinum Stars 4-2 and so, I think my players were a bit jittery in the first leg.
“However, when we visited Swaziland, it was all or nothing and we played the way I know my boys are capable of playing and we won 3-1, and although it tied the aggregate score at 5-5, unfortunately we lost on the away goal rule. But it was a good experience.”
Madidilane replaced Bafokeng Mohapi in 2016 and the same year led the team to the summit of Lesotho football. It had not been easy adapting in an completely new environment, but he has literally taken to football in a foreign country like a fish to water.
He confesses to know very little about their opponents from Botswana, but revealed that he was gathering enough intelligence on them and would study them thoroughly and his boys would be well prepared come the end of the month.
“I actually watched Township Rollers playing against Al Ahly during the group stages, unaware that we would be drawn against them. But now I have requested our technical staff to gather enough material about them to enable us to study them.”
There has been changes on the technical bench, with Serbian gaffer Nikola Kavazovic, who was heavily linked with a possible move to either Kaizer Chiefs or Baroka before the season started, handing his resignation at the Gaborone giants.
Kavazovic has since taken up the reigns of Kenyan giants AFC Leopards while coincidentally the Leopards coach – Rodolfo Zapata – has signed a two-year contract with Rollers.
“Unlike in South Africa where quality players abound, it is difficult here in Lesotho. But we have been able to assemble a decent enough squad to compete. The challenge is that we have been struggling to rediscover our form.
“It’s hopefully just a matter of getting our players back to their best because what I have discovered is that the players are lacking confidence. We are not doing well in the league but we can compete with Township Rollers. We just need all our players to be at their best.
“If they are not, then we will face the same problems that we are facing now. I however, believe that we will do better. We will continue to work hard and do all we can to help the players get their groove back,” Madidilane said.
Bantu are seventh on the Econet Premier League log table and have managed just three victories out of their opening seven games.
They also recently lost to Lioli in the final of the Independence Cup.