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SA SOCCER NEWS
Santos Star Looks To Cup Dream 01/10/03
Santos take on Kaizer Chiefs in the Coca-Cola Cup this weekend and midfield sensation Marawaan Bantam is eager to play against the team he supported as a youngster.

The Peoples' team have been drawn to play the Mighty Amakhosi in a first round match at the Athlone Stadium on Saturday.

"I can't wait to play against Chiefs, last year I was on the bench but I'm sure I'll be starting the game against this weekend," an excited Bantam said.

"Doctor Khumalo was my hero and I supported Chiefs when I was younger, so it's like a dream for me to now play against these guys I still look up to."

Bantam often spent time on the bench or even in the stands when he joined Santos, but his belief in God, or rather Allah as he is Muslim, brought him through his frustration to star for the Cape team.

"There was times I used to bench, or even sit in the stands, but I told myself this year is my year, and with my faith in Allah I've made an impact so far, although it's ben surprising, I mean I did not expect to start against Sundowns and then I scored twice, it was an unbelievable feeling."

The Bonteheuwel youngster is determined to establish himself at Santos this year as he faces stiff competition for the center-mid position.

"I'm not thinking of anything else but cementing my place in the starting line-up. I've got Ricardo Manetti, Sebastian Bax and Xloliso Mnchunu fighting for this position, and I'm learning from these more experienced guys all the time, and we get along well despite the competition."

Bantam is quite chuffed at the attention he is getting from the residents in Bonteheuwel, an area known for gangsterism and drugs.

"I'm considered a star here, all they want to do is talk to me about football, the team and anything about soccer you know. I really enjoy it and they do not put me under pressure to perform, but when it comes to match days I get nervous as I want to perform for the team and do my best against our opponents on match day."

The former Arcadia Senior Secondary school pupil was perviously playing in the first division for Avendale Athletico and gave us his views on the difference between the Castle Premiership and the lower division.

"In the Premiership I find it's more difficult as you have to be consistent throughout, you play against big teams and well known players every week, so it's a big challenge, with the first division there's not that much pressure, and I've handled it well in both leagues so far."

And about his rituals.

"I sleep early the night before a big game, which is every week for me, I don't find it difficult because I'm not a party person. At the game I usually put on my right boot first, I don't know why I just do it that way, and I don't use muti as I only believe in Allah."the studious Bantam stated.

The goalscoring midfielder may well be on his way to greater heights in football as his roots are firmly grounded.

"My message to the youngsters is to stay away from drugs, you don't have to experiment or know what it's about. You just have to believe in yourself and pray to God or Allah to guide you along the right way."

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