By Eddie Chikamhi
Zimbabwe international forward, Khama Billiat, has hailed his Warriors teammates for qualifying for the next AFCON finals in Cameroon.
The 30-year-old attacking midfielder is a key member of the team, but was forced to miss the remainder of the campaign after suffering an injury, earlier this year.
Billiat, who has played a major role in the team’s qualification for the last two finals, didn’t feature in the team’s final two matches, against Botswana and Zambia.
The Kaizer Chiefs man has been out of action for almost three months, with an injury he sustained during a South Africa Premiership tie against Maritzburg United, on January 9, at the FNB Stadium.
However, he is now back in training and is looking forward to return to his best, for both club and country, in the coming months.
Chiefs want to progress to the CAF Champions League, while international duty is also just over the horizon, with the 2022 World Cup qualifiers coming up in June.
“It was great to see Zimbabwe qualify for AFCON last weekend,” Billiat told his club’s official website, yesterday.
“Hopefully, I will come in and join the team and match the level of fitness required by the team.’’
The Warriors sealed their place with a game to spare in Group H, with eight points.
They beat the Zebras 1-0, in Botswana, rendering the last home match against Zambia virtually a dead rubber.
The Warriors lost that match 0-2 on Monday night.
But, Billiat could look back with a measure of satisfaction, as the two goals he scored, in the reverse fixture in Lusaka, proved decisive.
The Warriors claimed a sensational 2-1, with Billiat grabbing a brace, in a match which eventually defined the team’s quest, for a place in Cameroon, next year.
Billiat said the last three months have been difficult, for him, and is happy with the progress he has made, with his recovery.
“I have been out for some months now and it has not been easy,’’ he said. ‘’I have been coming to training and doing rehab, working hard trying to make sure that I spend less time outside.
“It has been difficult. We are professional footballers and we always want to contribute by playing through hard, and good times, so you can grow as a person.
“I got injured against Maritzburg United and I never saw it coming. I have never been in a situation where I have had to miss so many games.
“It was difficult for me. I thought I would push myself harder, and come back as soon as possible, but I understand that everything happens for a reason.
“I thank God for the strength, and I feel better at the moment. I am back, hopefully, the coach will give me a chance.
“Thankfully I am training with the team. I just need to work on my fitness. As a player, it’s your mentality, and how hard you work, so you can contribute in team.”
The Zimbabwean international started full-contact training recently.
He said he was focused on getting back on to the field of play, and try and help Chiefs, finish their DStv Premiership campaign strongly. And, there is also the issue of the CAF Champions League.
Billiat, who has had to fight a series of injuries in the last few seasons, provided five assists, and scored one goal in 16 games, in all competitions this season.
He is hopeful he could get some game time on Saturday, when Chiefs host Wydad Casablanca, in a crucial Champions League game.
Billiat has previously faced Wydad in the CAF Champions League in 2017, when he was with Sundowns, and they lost the tie on penalties.
He also met them during the 2018 group stages, at home, in a match that ended 1-1.
“Wydad is a good team, we struggled to play against them in the first game in Burkina Faso,’’ said Billiat.
“I have known them, for a long time, and they are not an easy side to play against. They work hard and they have been at this level for some time and know how to play the game.
“Every new game is a chance and bring new possibilities. We need to work on our game and make sure we use the fact that we are at home to get a good result. I think we deserve it.
“We just have to work hard as a team an apply what the coaches want us to do.’’
Meanwhile, Warriors coach, Zdravko Logarusic, is reported to have flown back home to Croatia after helping the team qualify for the next AFCON finals.
Loga was in his home country until he flew here in January to finalise preparations for the home-based Warriors, who took part at the CHAN finals, in Cameroon.
His team, hampered by lack of match fitness, with the players having last featured in a competitive game in about a year, lost all matches at the CHAN finals. The Herald