By Langton Nyakwenda
Former Warriors captain Benjani Mwaruwari has come out guns blazing and is fighting in Khama Billiat’s corner, as he believes the barrage of attacks the Kaizer Chiefs player has been receiving are unwarranted.
South African legend Linda “Mercedes Benz” Buthelezi reignited debate on whether Chiefs made the right decision to invest in Billiat.
He was particularly brutal in his assessment of the Warriors talisman’s contribution at Kaizer Chiefs, where his season has been blighted by injuries.
Buthelezi told South Africa’s Kick Off Magazine that the former Mamelodi Sundowns star should be offloaded to make way for equally talented players.
“Hey, Billiat must go, my brother. He is doing nothing for us,” Buthelezi, a former Bafana Bafana and Kaizer Chiefs player, said.
“I am a Chiefs person mina. He must go. I don’t think Chiefs signed him because they wanted to invest in him in a sense of selling him overseas.
“If that was the case, we would have seen it by now.”
“It’s not like we don’t have such players in this country. If you can go to Baroka, they play good football, they have talented boys there; even Black Leopards have good players there.
“You can sign a few of them here and they will be very serious once they get here.”
The 30-year-old Billiat is back in the spotlight as his lucrative contract with Kaizer Chiefs is running out.
Amakhosi have an option of renewing it when it expires on June 30, but football manager Bobby Motaung and coach Gavin Hunt are under pressure not to do so.
Injuries have dogged him for the better part of the 2020/21 season.
All in all, he has featured 13 times and scored once when Chiefs were held to a 2-2 draw by basement side Leopards on December 9, 2020.
But Mwaruwari has refused to join the chorus of condemnation.
Instead, the 2001 South African PSL Player of the Year, who starred for current English champions Manchester City, feels it is now time the nation stood up “in defence of the traumatised Billiat”.
“People are allowed to speak out their opinions, but sometimes it is good to check the facts on the ground before you speak.
“Sometimes it’s critical to defend our own and I think it’s time to defend my boy, Khama. Some of this criticism is not fair; it is not justified at all and we need to stand up as a nation and lift this boy up,” the United Kingdom-based Mwaruwari told The Sunday Mail Sport.
“I laugh when I hear some South African legends claiming that there are a lot of good players in South Africa who can do better than Khama Billiat, and I ask myself: Where are they?
“If there were a lot of good players in South Africa, then they (Chiefs) wouldn’t have gone for Khama, later on pay him top money.
“Billiat went to South Africa, he lifted the game there, he won trophies there, including the CAF Champions League with Mamelodi Sundowns, and everyone wanted him.
“Where were those players that Buthelezi is talking about? At the moment, Kaizer Chiefs are stuck with Billiat because he is better than everyone else. . .
“It doesn’t necessarily mean that a player becomes useless when he is injured.”
He described Billiat as “the special one”, who can easily walk into another top team if his contract is not renewed.
“My advice to the boy is that he should not rush things. He should make sure he heals properly.
“He will find a new team even if his contract is not renewed at Chiefs. He can even go to Orlando Pirates, or even go back to Mamelodi Sundowns and still play well.
“Some of these sentiments border on jealousy. People are jealous because it’s Khama, a foreign player who is earning that much, so they want to influence public opinion,” said Mwaruwari.
Since joining Chiefs from Sundowns in June 2018, he has scored nine goals in 54 appearances, a return that is being used as fodder to criticise his performances.
He is now considered a pale shadow of the brilliant player who won the South African PSL Player of the Year award in 2016 after helping Mamelodi Sundowns to their first CAF Champions League title.
His unimpressive stay at Chiefs, where he is the highest-paid player in the league with a salary of R833 333, has heightened criticism against him.
Despite the withering attacks, Billiat has remained mum.
His manager Godfrey “Vokal” Kabasa said: “He is not prepared to discuss anything regarding his injury or contract at the moment.”
Perhaps, he misses the late Edzai Kasinauyo, the man who gave him not only his breakthrough into the South African PSL, but sound advice and guidance as well.
It was Kasinauyo who convinced Ajax Cape Town to sign the talented player in 2010 when he had played just 15 minutes of top-flight football for CAPS United in the local league.
It’s now four years after Kasinauyo’s death.
“I am pained a lot … Edzai did a lot for our family. He played a role in grooming Khama, advising him to invest.
“He would also tell me about Khama’s problems and behaviour in South Africa. He always wanted us to sit down and discuss the future of Khama. His death is a huge loss; it could be the death of my boy’s future,” said Khama’s father, Mustafa, during a funeral service for Kasinauyo in June 2017.
And he has reason to believe that what he feared the most is coming to pass.
Off the field, the Amakhosi star has been attracting negative headlines involving women and reckless spending.
Ex-Kaizer Chiefs and Zimbabwe international Rabson “Sarafina” Muchichwa is, however, convinced he will come back stronger.
“The Khama Billiat I know is a top-class player, he can kill any team on his day but he has been affected by injuries a lot.
“You see, with his type of play, once you start getting persistent injuries, you tend to slow down a bit. So I hope he gets better soon,” Muchichwa said.
“The other thing is he has to change some things pertaining to his lifestyle. He has to keep his personal life private.
“We have heard some off-the-field issues about him which are not good. He has to take care of himself off the pitch.
“Playing for Kaizer Chiefs is a mammoth task, especially if you are the most-paid player. They (fans) will start questioning a lot if you are not performing well . . .”
Billiat has reportedly attracted interest from African giants Al Ahly, where his former coach Pitso Mosimane is now employed. The Sunday Mail