The Herald (Harare)

Zimbabwe: Khama's Big Break

ZIMBABWE winger and Ajax Cape Town hotshot Khama Billiat scaled new heights in his growing international profile when he recently secured a three-year endorsement deal from global sports equipment manufacturing company - Adidas. Billiat also becomes the first Zimbabwean player to get an endorsement from Adidas with the international company having previously chosen to only chip in with once-off sponsorship packages.

But for the Urban Warriors forward, the deal also means he will be featuring on some of Adidas' commercials as well as their various social responsibility programmes.

Billiat will also become the local face of Adidas as they seek to penetrate the Zimbabwean market. Adidas and local financial institution BancABC are already working on a deal that will see the kit manufacturer produce replicas for Premiership giants Dynamos and Highlanders as well as police outfit Black Mambas.

BancABC bankroll DeMbare, Bosso and Warumwa Warumwa and the three clubs wear Adidas kits. But it is their decision to offer Billiat an endorsement deal that has left both the player and his manager Edzai Kasinauyo literally over the moon.

Billiat whose stellar show inspired Zimbabwe to a vital 3-1 triumph over Angola in an African Cup of Nations final qualifier first leg encounter at Rufaro felt the Adidas deal would motivate him to continue doing well for club and country.

"This is a dream come true for me really. I am just grateful to Adidas for selecting me amongst a host of players.

"What makes the honour even greater is that I am the first player from Zimbabwe to be offered such kind of a deal and this will serve as a huge inspiration and it will motivate me to do well even better than what I am doing at the moment. With this kind of deal it means I have to be always on top of my game and I have to be disciplined and exemplary always.

"I also hope that more players from my country will get such deals because this will certainly help improve the quality of the game," Billiat said from his Cape Town base.

The former Aces Youth Academy forward also recently told South African soccer magazine Kickoff of his wish to break into the European leagues, having earlier this year had a chance to go for trials at Ajax Amsterdam.

"As long as I keep playing well, I will be close to moving to Europe. It also depends on which team or league wants you. A team from a small country might think I am good enough, but another from a bigger league might think I am not there yet," Billiat said.

Interestingly for Billiat, Adidas are also Ajax Cape Town's kit sponsors.

Kasinauyo, a former Ajax Cape Town and Moroka Swallows player also paid tribute to Adidas and noted that the company's gesture would be a "life-changing experience for Billiat and all the players who will follow in his footsteps.

The former Warriors midfielder also revealed that Billiat would be given an annual budget from which he can use on any Adidas equipment of his choice.

"It's a three year deal and he gets paid extra bonuses for performing well. He will also get paid on a quarterly basis and he gets a spending budget on any items on the Adidas range on a yearly basis.

"With this deal it means Khama would have to wear Adidas boots for club and country for the next three years and he will do some promotional stuff as when and when requested to do so by the company.

"He will also have to avail himself for the social responsibility programmes which the company would be undertaking," Kasinauyo said.

Kasinauyo also said Adidas were hoping to use Billiat's growing international profile as part of their marketing vehicle in Zimbabwe.

"At the moment he is the face of Adidas in Zimbabwe and they are going to use his profile to grow their market in this country.

"I also believe that this should be a door opener for the youngsters who look up to Khama for inspiration. Nowadays players should not just be content with playing to get winning bonuses . . . they should aim for endorsement deals which could also come in handy for them even after they have stopped playing.

"Lucas Radebe (former Leeds and Bafana Bafana skipper) is still benefiting from his endorsement deal with Puma long after he hung up his boots. So even those Zimbabwean players playing abroad should get seem inspiration from this because Khama will also be appearing on TV commercials for Adidas in South Africa," Kasinauyo said.

A number of Bafana Bafana stars such as goalkeeper Itumeleng Khune and midfielders Siphiwe Tshabalala and Teko Modise have also benefited from some endorsement deals in the ABSA Premiership.

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