Sharuko On Saturday
FOR Ghanaian football legend, Sammy Kuffour, this was as good as it gets — an unpolished football diamond of immense beauty — a stunning gem clearly crying out for the big stage of Europe where it could be showcased. And crucially where its true value could be realised. Kuffour should know, after all he comes from a country that has produced some of the finest young footballers on the continent with their Under-17 side, the Black Starlets, winning the FIFA Under-17 World Cup twice and their Under-20s being the current FIFA Under-20 World Cup holders while also winning four African Youth Championships.
And Christian Atsu, who is only 25, has already played for Chelsea, Everton, Bournemouth, Newcastle, Malaga and Porto and, at the last Nations Cup finals in 2015, he was voted Player of the Tournament, at the young age of 23, and also won the Goal of the Tournament award.
Kuffour isn’t the only one who, on fight sight, has been blown away by Billiat’s talent, and that should tell us our Ghanaian brother wasn’t just trying to sing a song that we would dance to, simply because — after spending the last month stuck in Johannesburg working for SuperSport as one of their pundits for the 2017 AFCON finals — he now feels like one of us.
When Rio Ferdinand arrived in Cape Town with his Manchester United teammates for a pre-season tour, which saw him playing against Khama for 90 minutes, the former England defender provided a brutally frank appraisal of our forward.
“If they are really youngsters, they have quite a few really good players,” Ferdinand told reporters. “Their number 11 (Khama Billiat) is their most exciting player for me.”
That was five years ago.
Against such a glowing background of heavyweight endorsements from some of the best defenders to grace world football, who should know when they really face a very, very good forward, why then is Khama still struggling to make that giant leap into Europe, the big stage where all the best players go to showcase their talents?
Back then, when Rio offered his endorsement, Khama was just a raw talent still finding his feet in Super Diski, playing for a modest club in Cape Town, still being haunted by the rejection he suffered at the hands of some CAPS United fans who felt he wasn’t good enough during the short time he spent at the Green Machine and kept questioning what Lloyd Chitembwe was seeing in him and adjusting to the culture shock that comes with living in the fast lane of one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
The boy from Mufakose who, by his father’s admission, had grown up in poverty such that getting him a pair of football boots was something his dad had to work hard for, was now a man and on the path to riches his family never dreamt about.
The Khama of today isn’t the same Khama that mesmerised Rio, but a fully-fledged professional, who has just been named the best footballer in South Africa, the second best footballer plying his trade on the continent (even though I insist he is the best), the best in-field player plying his trade in Africa and, according to the CAF experts, one of the best XI African players last year (and that includes those who are in Europe).
So, why then is one of the best XI African players still finding it difficult to make the huge leap into European football, something he has repeatedly told us is his dream, when Europe is the home to thousands of footballers from this continent?
After yet another European transfer window closed this week, with Khama is still stuck in South Africa, it inevitably provoked another fierce debate across the continent as to why our star can’t make the breakthrough that players, including some with less than a tenth of his talent, a tenth of his pace, a tenth of his wizardry and a tenth of his quality, have easily made the grade to Europe?
That Khama appeared to have boosted his profile, with a sensational individual performance against Algeria in the first game of our AFCON finals matches in Gabon, showing he can mix with the big boys and also perform at the big stage — something which is incredible given he has been running on an empty tank for some time having played non-stop competitive football for 17 months on a role that takes a lot from him given he uses a lot of his pace and energy — has made his latest rejection by European clubs even more puzzling.
If he could perform like that, coming from a background where he hasn’t rested for more than one-and-half years leading the line for both club and country, then what could he deliver if given enough time to rest, to recharge his batteries, to heal all the knocks he has taken from ruthless he has taken from defenders who have been targeting him as public enemy number one?
If he could play like that, without the benefit of the best training facilities and technical support that is guaranteed by a move to European football, wasn’t it given that he would turn into a far, far better player if exposed to such superior training facilities and getting such superior technical guidance?
Hope was everywhere and it wasn’t only confined among us, his people, his folks, who could be accused of bias in both his assessment and all the good things that we wish could happen to him in a career that we have seen rise from the dusty battlegrounds of Mufakose to the giltz of the fields of Osaka, Japan, where — for the first time in our history as a nation — we proudly had a representative gracing the prestigious FIFA Club World Cup.
But, once again, our dreams were dashed as Khama failed to make the grade and will have to wait, at least, for another six months before another window opens.
AND, SUDDENLY, THERE WERE SOME WHO WERE SAYING KHAMA IS OVERRARATED
But, as is usually the case in this country where we have a brigade of people who are quick to judge others, who also seem to thrive in negativity, who seemingly don’t want to see or hear a good story coming from here, there was an outpouring of messages pregnant with toxicity from scores of them as they started to spread the gospel that Khama isn’t as good as we claim he is.
Some even said he is just ordinary, whose profile has been overblown by the media here and local fans who have been crying out for a hero since the retirement of Peter Ndlovu, the greatest Warrior of all-time, who helped his country end more than 20 years of waiting for a place at the Nations Cup finals.
“Ndivana Sharuko vanongoti hee, mufanha uyu anogona, hee akaipa, vanonyepera vanhu,” read a chat on a WhatsApp group. “This guy is not as good as we are being made to believe and he is just an ordinary player who is standing out simply because there are too many ordinary players around.
“Dai akatamba mazuva aana Digital, Flying Doctor Murewa, Sinyo Ndunduma, The Headmaster Joel “Jubilee” Shambo, kana Willard Khumalo, hapana aimbotaura nezvake.
“He will never make it in Europe, achangoperera imomo mu Mzansi saana Tshabalala vaifunga kuti kugohwesa bhora pa World Cup ndokuita superstar.”
And, others, as usually happens during such times, asked how we even dream he could become a superstar when he finds himself the subject of lurid tabloid headlines implying he has been going out with such colourful characters like raunchy dancer Bev, spending his time in night clubs when stars like Critsiano Ronaldo are busy in the gym working to become even better.
Regai varungu vati victory has many fathers and defeat is an orphan.
Surely, can we really say Khama is not good, is average, probably a joke of an overblown talent who doesn’t deserve a crack at a club in Europe, even Belgium zvayo, even Sweden zvayo?
If he isn’t good how then did the experts at CAF pick him as one of the best XI African players last year in an All-Star team that had the likes of Serge Aurier of Paris Saint-Germain, widely considered to be one of the best three rightbacks in the world football, Aymen Abdennour of Valencia, Eric Bailly of Manchester United, Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang of Norussia Dortmund), Sadio Mane of Liverpool) and Riyad Mahrez of Leicester City?
That is heavyweight company and you don’t get it simply because you happen to have some good looks but you simply earn it simply because you are good — 11 out of thousands and thousands of African footballers in the world.
To imagine that Christian Bassogog, the Cameroonian forward who has been a huge hit at the 2017 Nations Cup finals and ran half the length of the pitch to score a beauty for his team’s killer second goal against Ghana on Thursday night, didn’t even make that list, should tell us how special this Khamaldinho is.
To imagine that Cameroon captain Benjamin Moukandjo, who has been the heart-and-soul of his team in Gabon, providing both leadership and immense influence in midfield, didn’t make the list, should tell us how good this Khama boy is.
To imagine that none of the 22 players who will take to the field tomorrow, in the battle for the gold medal at the Nations Cup finals, didn’t make that list, should tell us how good our boy is.
Come on guys, let’s support our boy and we can turn our backs on him, and to start suggesting he isn’t that good, simply because — for one reason or another, including reports that there is a huge buy-out clause in his contract which is frustrating potential suitors — is certainly very, very unfair on a rare talent that has been a blessing to our football.
We should be asking questions as to why players always have to fight, to get out of Sundowns and go to Europe, with Keegan Dolly’s move to France coming close to getting a bit messy, and why Esrom Nyandoro, at the peak of his athletic powers, was not given the chance to move to Sheffield United when they showed interest in him back in the days?
Then, if we do that, we can then understand that it’s not a case that our boy isn’t good to make his move but there are too many hurdles which he must clear at a club that, given a chance, will prefer to keep him as their servant, to serve their interests, than go elsewhere because, after all, money from transfer fees doesn’t appeal to Sundowns the way it appeals to other clubs.
Their owner is a billionaire and what does a R20 million cheque from a player transfer mean to him and his bank account?
IF KHAMA ISN’T GOOD WHAT ABOUT OTHERS?
Surely, if Kermit Erasmus, the South African forward who is the same age as Khama, can make it into the French top-flight league, after scoring just 15 goals in 67 appearances during two spells at SuperSport United, at an average of 0.22 goals per match, just 17 goals in 65 matches for Orlando Pirates, at an average of 0.26 goals per game, just a single goal for Bafana Bafana in 11 matches since 2010, how can we say that our boy isn’t good enough?
If Mandla Masango, the Bafana Bafana international who is a year older than Khama and has scored 11 goals in 105 appearances for Kaizer Chiefs from 2007 to 2015, can get a move to a Danich club, as happened last year, can we claim that our boy isn’t good enough to make the grade to Europe?
Of course, Masango didn’t last long in Denmark, and he is back in South Africa where he has joined SuperSport United.
Can we say Thulani Serero, Khama’s former teammate at Ajax Cape Town who moved to Ajax Amsterdam, was far, far better than our boy and, because I always believed he wasn’t, I’m not surprised the Dutch giants have discarded him and he is just serving the last five months of his contract, playing in the reserve side, as he waits for another move.
What about Ayanda Patosi who moved to Belgium, Daylon Claasen who moved to German, Luther Singh who moved to Portugal, Bongani Zulu, Dino Ndlovu, Tokelo Rantie who use dto play in Mozambique before moving to Europe, Tefu Mashamaite, who moved to Sweden at the age of 30 only to fall out of favour at the club and is now back in South Africa, can we say all these players are better than Khama?
Some people are saying his management team has badly let him down, others are saying Khama has become too comfortable in Pretoria, just an hour or so flight from home to see dear mum, and all the stuff, but I believe that this boy is good and since he tells us he wants to play in Europe, he has the talent to make it there?
What he needs is our support and not for us to suggest that he is crap.
That is my story and I’m sticking to it!
TO GOD BE THE GLORY!
Come on Warriors!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
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