Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
KHAMA BILLIAT is being subjected to a wave of brutal criticism by some sections of the South African media and the relentless onslaught has now reached sickening levels which should be rejected by everyone who cares for the Warriors.
The attacks, says former Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare, are disguised as criticism but are driven by an agenda to drive a wedge between the player and the Kaizer Chiefs fans.
And, the diminutive forward appears to be finding comfort in Jesus amid the onslaught.
“I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me, and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me,.” he tweeted last week.
But, while others have been hammering him, Billiat was featured by CAF on their Wednesday Wizards online show in which the continental football governing body produced a video package of some of his best moves and described him as “the best of the lot at a certain skill.’’
And, Mpandare feels the local media should leap into Billiat’s defence because he remains a key pillar of the country’s national football fortunes.
Some of the reports, said Mpandare, are meant to incite Chiefs fans to rebel against Billiat as they portray the picture of gold digger who went to the Amakhosi to just make a fortune without any passion to serve the interests of the club.
There has been a sharp increase in the criticism of the Zimbabwe international footballer, especially during this period where articles have been hard to generate for journalists, with live football having been knocked out by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Former Chiefs striker, Mark Williams, who is also a pundit on SuperSport TV, was the latest prominent South African football voice to be feast on the attacks on Billiat.
“If I am the CEO and the boss of Kaizer Chiefs and I pay almost a billion for somebody, and he is not playing, I am going to be a bit frustrated and would ask the coach, why isn’t that one of my most expensive players that I am paying R800 thousand to a R1 million a month, is not playing?’’ he told Soccer Laduma.
“So, (it means) the investment that the club is doing is not good because the coach and the player don’t see eye-to-eye. Is it because of Billiat’s mentality?
“Because we all know, at the end of the day, Billiat is a good player, if he is fit, and his mind is right.’’
Billiat has been limited to only 16 appearances, in all competitions, for the Amakhosi in a season which has been blighted by injuries and Soccer Laduma said he was “heading for arguably his worst season in the South African ABSA Premiership football,’’ and “there have been questions about the player’s mentality.’’
Mpandare said he believes most of the criticism appears driven by malice with some people finding it difficult to reconcile with the fact that a Zimbabwean could be one of the highest paid footballers in the South African Premiership.
“It’s very clear that Khama is being targeted and there is nothing, really, at the moment that he can do right because a negative angle has to be sought and highlighted all the time,’’ said Mpandare.
“It’s been some kind of a pattern since he joined Kaizer Chiefs with some people seemingly unhappy with the deal which his management team secured for him.
“They have been drawing this picture to suggest that he only cares for the money, his focus is not on football anymore and he is being paid a big amount without delivering for the team.
“But, the reality is that he has been unfortunate with injuries this season and it happens even to be the best players in the world because this is a tough game.
“Look at Paul Pogba, for instance, he would have loved to have been in the thick of things for Manchester United this season but injuries only limited him to just eight appearances, that is half the number of games which Khama has played for Chiefs, but this shows that such things happen.
“Khama is a dedicated professional footballer, it’s something he has been doing all his life and there is nothing that will delight him more than seeing Chiefs being champions this season.
“To question his mentality, surely, is taking things a bit too far because he has always served his employers very well wherever he has played.’’
Mpandare believes the Zimbabwean media should start rallying behind Billiat rather than just consuming, and spreading, the lop-sided narrative being generated by some journalists across the Limpopo.
“I believe he deserves to be supported by our Zimbabwean media because he is a key member of the Warriors and has demonstrated, now and again, that he can deliver for his country,’’ said Mpandare.
“He has been outstanding for us in all the qualifiers for the last two AFCON tournaments we have played, he scored the only goal we got in Egypt and played at a very high level.
“He wasn’t even 100 percent fit when he took the risk to play for us in that decisive World Cup qualifier against Somalia in September last year because he knew that our future in the tournament was at stake and he needed to help his country’s cause.
“When, everything appeared lost, in those dying moments, we saw him take responsibility and score a beautiful goal which, in the end, was the difference between us being knocked out in the preliminary round, by Somalia, and remaining in contention in the tournament.
“There are few footballers in Africa who have done so much, for their countries, in the past few years like Khama and that’s why I think he deserves support from our local media.’’
Billiat’s appearance for Zimbabwe in that 2022 World Cup qualifier last September was heavily criticised by Chiefs coach, Ernst Middendorp, who questioned why he played for the entire 90 minutes despite carrying an injury. But, Chiefs football manager, Bobby Motaung, defended the footballer.
“I think it was uncalled for that the coach made that statement and we will deal with the matter internally,” Motaung said.