23 June 2018

Zimbabwe/South Africa: Billiat Move Sparks Debate

Photo: Khama Billiat Facebook page
Khama Billiat.

Warriors forward Khama Billiat yesterday provoked huge debate in the football fraternity after he completed a surprise move from South Africa champions Mamelodi Sundowns to rivals Kaizer Chiefs. Billiat, who had been strongly linked with a number of European clubs, left many critics confounded after he agreed a three-year deal with Amakhosi, with an option for another year.

Chiefs also announced the signing of leftback Letlhogonolo Mirwa from the ABC Motsepe League side Buya Msuthu FC and offensive midfielder Andriamirado Andrianarimanana from Madagascar.

Andrianarimanana was selected as the best player at the 2018 COSAFA Cup.

But it is the decision by Billiat to join Chiefs that has set tongues wagging.

Billiat turned down Egyptian giants Zamalek, who this week tabled their bid with an annual salary of $450 000.

The offer fell below the $700 000 that the player demanded.

It was understood there was interest from Romanian side Steaua Bucharest, Djurgarden IF of Sweden and Azerbaijan's Qarabag.

Nigel Munyati, one of the directors at Aces Youth Academy where Billiat was groomed, yesterday said they had hoped Billiat would follow in the footsteps of Knowledge Musona and play in Europe.

"We had high hopes for Khama that by now he should, at least, be playing for one of the clubs in Europe. He has made his decision and we respect it although I don't think he will get any better by staying in South Africa.

"Khama is a phenomenal player and I think he needs to be surrounded by quality players to realise his maximum potential of which I doubt he gets that in South Africa.

"There is still a window of opportunity for Europe, though, if he can do that in the next 24 months. But it will be difficult for him to get a good team.

"But all that said, it is quite interesting to see the excitement with Kaizer Chiefs getting Billiat now because we offered them both Khama and Knowledge Musona in 2010 and they took only Knowledge. Now the same team is coming for him eight years later," said Munyati.

The Zimbabwe international won three Absa Premiership titles and other domestic silverwares that included the Nedbank Cup and the Telkom Knockout.

He also won the ABSA Premiership Footballer of the Year award in 2016 and his highlight was the CAF Champions League and CAF Super Cup winner's medals.

But his new club Chiefs have been struggling for stability of late.

South Africa football journalist Joe Crann tweeted that Billiat's move was odd.

"For all the talk of going overseas, Billiat has essentially committed to finishing his career in South Africa. I'll be honest, from his point of view I think leaving Sundowns for Chiefs is a bit of an odd move, but I'm sure he has his reasons."

Former Zimbabwe international Alois Bunjira, who spent years playing in South Africa, also weighed in and argued that Billiat, who is now approaching his 28th birthday, had to make a decision that secures his future.

"All things being equal, I rather would have loved to see him stay at Sundowns because a move to Europe was always in doubt.

"However, I cannot judge because I don't know what his relationship with the club, the coach and the other players was like. Otherwise, the two teams are almost at par in terms of status in South African football.

"In fact, Sundowns flash money more than any other club. So taking it from that angle, Chiefs probably offered a much bigger and better contract which was difficult to resist because I also hear there were some overseas clubs after his signature.

"It's also important to realise at his age, most of the decisions are based on the financial package. It's about securing the future.

"He is on the homestretch of his career and he should use the time to make as much money as he can, clean up his brand because he will need it in the future.

"As for the move to Europe, I don't want to sound pessimistic, but I had doubted if it was possible. I think he missed that opportunity two years ago when he was voted the best player in South Africa.

"He should have moved then. At his current age, many big clubs in Europe usually are not interested," said Bunjira.

Billiat joins compatriot Willard Katsande and Teenage Hadebe at the Naturena.

Katsande believes the talented forward could just be the tonic they needed to win the ABSA Premiership title they last won in 2015.

Katsande told The Herald yesterday that Chiefs were lacking a player of Billiat's quality.

"It's massive addition to us. We really wanted someone who can have effect on our matches.

"For me, it is also a good feeling whereby I know how he plays, all we need to do is to help him settle in at the club."

Katsande said although Billiat had signed a three-year deal with Chiefs, there was still room for him to move to Europe.

"His European chances are not yet over. He can still go after helping us win the league. Chiefs won't hold on to players who want to go overseas," Katsande said.

Sundowns took to Twitter to wish Billiat all the best.

"Mamelodi Sundowns would like to bid farewell to Khama! We have enjoyed many successful seasons together and have shared some incredible memories! We wish him all the best for his future!"

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