By Langton Nyakwenda
Khama Billiat clocked 50 league appearances for Soweto giants Kaizer Chiefs last week but the milestone was overshadowed by concerns about the diminutive forward’s prolonged goal drought, which have dominated sports pages in some of South Africa’s media.
The 30-year-old forward scored four goals last season but is yet to open his account this term and now has a total of eight strikes in his 50 league appearances for Amakhosi.
Billiat’s management is now hoping the star forward can use today’s MTN 8 semi-final clash against Orlando Pirates and the upcoming Africa Cup of Nations qualifier against Algeria to find his range again.
“Let’s wait for the national team and outcome of this weekend,” Billiat’s manager, Godfrey Bakasa, told The Sunday Mail Sport.
Billiat, who is expected in the national team camp tomorrow, is a perennial match winner for the Warriors but his club form has left new Chiefs coach Gavin Hunt scrambling for answers.
The veteran gaffer has, however, reiterated his support for Billiat but expects more effort from the striker, who has scored three goals in his last 25 league appearances.
“What we can’t do at the moment is leave him out and give him a little bit of a break because of our situation, so we’ve got to try and play him through this patch and get him to be in the right areas and do the right things,” Hunt told Kick Off soccer magazine on Friday.
Chiefs have one win in their opening three league matches and are trailing rivals Orlando Pirates 0-3 going into today’s second leg of the MTN 8 Cup semi-final.
“Certainly, you can do all the talking you want — and we have spoken on numerous occasions, trying to give him a little bit more understanding of where to be when the ball is in certain areas — but it’s got to be a little self-instinct as well about wanting to do it,” added Hunt.
Back home, Chiefs legend and former Warriors midfielder, Tinashe Nengomasha, has backed Billiat to rediscover himself and win trophies for Amakhosi.
“Khama is like a younger brother to me. I saw him grow up at Aces Academy and his talent was never in doubt. So, I would like to say congratulations to him for reaching this milestone.
“It’s not easy to reach 50 games for Chiefs, it shows that he is working hard to stay in the team and he is taking good care of his health.
“He now needs to target 100 games,” said Nengomasha, who clocked over 300 appearances for Kaizer Chiefs in his 10-year stay at the Soweto giants.
“Yes, his form has been worrisome but remember Khama is not a machine, he is just a human being.
“Even Lionel Messi, the world’s best player is not the same these days. I think Khama should just re-collect himself, forget about the past and focus on the future.
“There is pressure at Amakhosi because everyone is looking at you. So, sometimes you have to sacrifice even your social life.
“Khama has to try and pinpoint where the problem is and fix it.
“Kaizer Chiefs need a brilliant Billiat and when he hits top form for Amakhosi then the Warriors will benefit,” said Nengomasha.
Ex-Warriors defender Thomas Sweswe, made 59 league appearances for Chiefs between 2009 and 2012 and he knows how difficult it is to adjust to life at Naturena.
Billiat was the talk of South African football when he joined Chiefs from Mamelodi Sundowns in 2018, two years after bagging the Footballer of the Year award.
He won a CAF Champions League medal at Sundowns in 2016, the same year he was shortlisted for the CAF African-based Player of the Year award.
Amakhosi broke the bank to lure Billiat to Soweto but the Zimbabwean has so far failed to justify his price tag.
“It’s always difficult at Kaizer Chiefs because almost the whole of South Africa wants to play for the biggest football brand in the country. Just getting a contract is a blessing on its own.
“The pressure is just too much.
“So for Khama to reach 50 games is commendable. At Chiefs you need to be on your toes and focused so that you can play every week.
“Also, there are a lot of sacrifices so that you keep in the right shape and play well so as not to disappoint the fans.
“I wish Billiat an injury-free season so that he can help the team win trophies,” Sweswe said.
Billiat’s teammate and long-serving midfielder, Willard Katsande, has been playing a brotherly role for the beleaguered forward who was a victim of some brutal media attacks towards the end of last season.
“It’s every kid’s dream to play for Kaizer Chiefs and to reach 50 games is a huge achievement. It’s good for him (Billiat),” the 34-year-old Katsande said.
“There were some moments where Khama was brilliant and some moments where there were hiccups. It happens in football, especially when you are joining a new team.
“So it was the duty of us senior guys who have been there with the team for long, to know where exactly we needed to help him adjust.
“Now I can tell you he is happy, he has found his footing again and he will score goals because he’s a special player.
“We are going to achieve a lot with him. He will achieve more milestones, he’s going to keep playing well.
“Whenever he has the ball on his feet he is bound to create a scoring opportunity so he is a good asset for Chiefs.
“To play for Kaizer Chiefs is difficult but Khama was groomed by a renowned academy, he is a good player, a good father and a good role model to the upcoming youngsters,” said Katsande.
Billiat joined Chiefs in 2018 after spending five seasons at Mamelodi Sundowns where he scored 39 goals in 99 league appearances.
He made his South African Premiership debut with Ajax Cape Town on August 27, 2010 in a 2-0 win against Bloemfontein Celtic. After spending three seasons at Ajax, Pitso Mosimane brought him to Sundowns.
He now has a total of 232 league appearances in the South African PSL and has now played 18 692 minutes since August 27, 2010. The Sunday Mail