One man cannot make a team, but down South, Kaizer Chiefs have turned a foreign star into their fall guy.
For all his exploits on and off the field of play, Khama Billiat’s hosts think he is responsible for everything that goes wrong as far as the team is concerned.
Some accusations are so laughable, fans are arguing that at this rate, Khama Billiat can be blamed even for the load-shedding in South Africa!
The Rainbow Nation is experiencing ‘Level 2’ load-shedding- implemented daily from 4 pm throughout the night to 5 am until further notice. Could Billiat be switching off the lights?
This is so because the pint-sized Zimbabwean winger has been used as a scapegoat for everything that has gone wrong at Kaizer Chiefs, especially the Glamour Boys’ failure to win any silverware since 2015.
Since Billiat swapped the yellow shirt of Mamelodi Sundowns for the gold and black of Chiefs in June 2018, the ‘Khosi nation’ has at every given chance castigated the Mufakose-bred winger for “failing to replicate the form which hurled him to stardom at Masandawana”.
He has been accused of not performing to the level of his salary— a reported R850 000 a month.
Former Black Leopards coach Mlungisi ‘Professor’ Ngubane, for the umpteenth time, criticized Billiat, accusing the Aces Youth Academy graduate of not being professional and lying about his age —blaming that for his current goal drought for Amakhosi.
“He cannot be earning so much (money) but not performing on the field,” Ngubane told celebrated South African broadcaster Robert Marawa on his Marawa Sports Worldwide show.
“There is definitely something wrong. It’s either he is really unhappy, he doesn’t sleep or he cheated his age,” added Ngubane.
Billiat has scored 25 goals and provided 29 assists for Amakhosi in 125 appearances for the club, but has not found the back of the net since April this year, a setback which has culminated in immense criticism from a section of the club’s fans, so-called legends and wanna-be football pundits.
Zimbabwe national teams General Manager Wellington Mpandare, who worked with Billiat during the winger’s glittering international career spanning over a decade, believes the criticism the winger gets, is simply out of spite and has xenophobic connotations.
“My take is these guys are just jealous of Khama. Khama gets a lot of money from Kaizer Chiefs and obviously they don’t like it because it (the money) is coming to a Zimbabwean,” Mpandare told Soccer24.
“They probably want one of them to get that kind of money because the criticism is unjustified so to speak. Khama works very hard at training, I know that because I have worked with him since he was a national U-23 player,” he added.
The accusations of lack of professionalism and age-cheating on Billiat by Ngubane drew ire from football stakeholders in Zimbabwe and Mpandare again rubbished them.
“Khama does not operate the way these people think. This so-called Professor (Ngubane) was saying probably he (Billiat) drinks and does not sleep. I have said before that the player likes his sleep, he is one person who likes and values his sleep,” Mpandare said.
“So when you hear a person saying Khama does not sleep then you know that person does not know him because he is one player who can miss his breakfast just to get enough rest through sleep. So for someone to then say he does not sleep because he will be partying, is absurd,” added the former Gunners official.
Football stars have a reputation for spending the little free time they have drinking and partying. But whilst that is true, Mpandare reckons it’s normal because they are human beings after all and that cannot be used as a yardstick in the case of Billiat.
“Look, people can party when it’s time to party, it happens all over the world even in Europe where you have these so-called professional players. They have time to party, I’m sure you have seen videos on social media, they do party when it’s time to party,” he said.
“Besides, Khama is not a heavy drinker for your own information so the allegations and criticism labelled against Khama are not fair. I know him very well and I disagree, a player may be out of form but that doesn’t necessarily mean he is up to any kind of mischief.”
Mpandare also believes partly to blame for Billiat’s loss of form is the lack of quality players around him at Kaizer Chiefs, something he had in abundance during his successful days at Sundowns, where he smashed 47 goals in 140 appearances.
“A player performs well as long as he has good players around him,” reckons Mpandare.
“For Kaizer Chiefs, they have been struggling and I think that has contributed to the way Khama has played because even with the Zimbabwe national team, everyone agrees that he was a darling and rescued the Warriors on several occasions, because he had good players around him.
Mpandare suggests that the Kaizer Chiefs supporters need to show Billiat love, for him to perform to the best of his capabilities.
“What Khama needs is love, not the criticism that these people are giving him. Give him love and you will see that he will enjoy his football but as long as they keep on criticizing him, it will get into his head,” he Mpandare.
“He is one player who I can’t say is weak but I know he gets affected by the negative publicity, it really affects him.
“This is why at one time when Zdravko Logarusic (former Zimbabwe national team coach) was constantly shouting at him during the Afcon qualifier against Algeria in Algiers, he didn’t perform well. He was affected and that also contributed to his eventual decision to quit international football,” added Mpandare.
Billiat’s former agent Mike Ngobeni believes the nimble-footed winger is still a quality player whose loss of form can be attributed to not being utilized according to his strength.
“A good player can’t just be a bad player overnight. Billiat is still the same player you saw playing at Ajax in his days. He is the same Billiat who was signed by Sundowns because of those runs, and those touches,” Ngobeni said.
“But at the end of the day, every club has its own philosophy and how they play. I believe they (Kaizer Chiefs) are not playing him according to his strength, he is a wide player, not an inside player, that is what I think.
Ngobeni believes Billiat thrives on using space, which is why he needs to be played on the wing.
“They (Chiefs) must play him as a forward winger because he is someone who enjoys space. At the end of the day, every club, they have got the way they play but there is no way we can just say all of a sudden Billiat is a bad player, he can’t be a bad player overnight,” explained Ngobeni.
Ngobeni reiterates that for Billiat to excel in the iconic Amakhosi shirt, he needs to be played according to his strength.
“Khama needs space, you cannot put him deep and expect him to come from deep and score a goal. He is still a speedy player with quick touches and I think they are not utilizing him according to his strength,” said Ngobeni, adding that when a club signs a player of Billiat’s calibre, they need to build the team around him.
“I’m not blaming the coach I’m not blaming the club, but all I’m saying is each and every club has got its own ways, but if you sign a player like Messi for example, you have to build the team around him, change a lot of things to make sure you suit the player and get what you want to get from him,” said the M Sport Management founder.
Ngobeni says if the other way Billiat can be utilized while playing in the middle is if the team play high line football.
“If there is no space, he is not going to perform, unless they are playing high-line pressing football. If they do that, he will give what they need because he is still in good shape,” he said.
The top agent insists Billiat is still one of the best players in South Africa, and to justify his claim, Billiat is at the top of the all-time scoring ranks of all players still active in the DStv Premiership – with 97 goals.
Despite the somewhat harsh criticism, Billiat is keeping a cool head and still dreams of winning titles with Chiefs.
“When you join a team, you want to contribute positively and win as many games as you possibly can,” Billiat said on the Kiazer Chiefs’ Vodacom Ringa Nathi podcast.
“Of course, that also leads to winning as many trophies as we can, and that is the only reason I am here. We still believe we can win many trophies together as a team,” added Billiat.
Maybe the love of the ‘Khosi nation’ is like the wind, hence Billiat cannot see it, but he should at least feel it.