THE announcement by Mamelodi Sundowns’ coach Pitso Mosimane this week that Zimbabwe international football star Khama Billiat wanted to leave the African champions provided confirmation for something that we have known, and reported about, for some time now.
What Mosimane didn’t say was that, for a long time now, relations between the Warriors talisman and his employers have been frosty, possibly broken down for good, something which we have been highlighting in this newspaper this year.
We didn’t need to wait for Sundowns to provide that confirmation because, in this game, the body language of a footballer can say a lot and it has been clear that there was something wrong with Khama and he was no longer enjoying his stay at the Pretoria club as much as he was doing last year, when he inspired them to their first African championship crown.
Leaks from some club officials, who decided to use the media in South Africa to try and portray Khama as a footballer who was out of order — weighed down by off-the-field distractions, including, but not limited to appearing at training sessions while under the influence of alcohol — provided us with signs that all was not well between the two parties.
We have seen the South African clubs use that weapon before, in their attempts to whip foreign players who would have stood their ground and refused to be bullied into submission on some issues where they feel they are being short-changed, with the teams running to their friendly media organisations to rubbish the profile of those footballers.
In March this year, an explosive case emerged in South Africa when Kenyan international footballer Clifton Mihesu filed a complaint with Fifa and the international organisation representing footballers in the world, FIFPro, in which he claimed he was forced by Golden Arrows, at gun point, to terminate his contract as demanded by the Durban club.
Miheso claimed he was negotiating with club officials when some gunmen arrived at the offices and then told him to do as demanded by the team or face the possibility of being shot dead because, in South African football, it’s the clubs and not the players who make the decisions.
The case is pending with Fifa and FIFPro and if things can be dragged to such a sickening extent, what then stops bigger and more powerful clubs than Arrows to use other weird tricks, including using some friendly media organisations, to spoil the profiles of footballers, especially the foreign ones, who would have resisted the order to do as demanded by these clubs?
Khama’s problems with Sundowns started when the Zimbabwe international advised his employers that he wanted to leave and would not extend his contract, which expires at the end of this season, because the time had come for him to face fresh challenges.
If Khama moves at the end of his contract it means he would have become a free agent and his handlers can now negotiate terms for him without Sundowns getting anything in return for his transfer and that has ruffled a lot of feathers at the Pretoria club where they had tied him to a buy-out clause that would benefit them immensely in the event he is signed now.
That buy-out clause has been the source of frustration for Khama, who wants another stage different from South Africa to express his talent, with a number of suitors from Europe and Asia saying they can’t pay such a prohibitive amount for a player who is in the final year of his deal.
Khama watched the drama which surrounded his former teammate Keagan Dolly, whose move to France turned into a complicated thing with Sundowns shifting the posts now and again, including claiming that they had made a mistake in the buy-out clause they had inserted in the contract they had signed with the South African forward.
We believe Khama has served Sundowns with distinction, giving them probably the best years of his football, and playing a very instrumental role in helping them not only to win the South African championship, but also become champions of Africa for the first time in their history.
And we also believe, from a national perspective, it’s time that Khama moves away from the South African Premiership because his game is crying out for a higher level where he can take it to another level the way other players, including Dolly, have left Super Diski to advance their careers.
We have already seen how Knowledge Musona’s game has improved significantly since his move from South Africa to Europe to become easily the most influential player for our national team and we believe, at 27, this is the right time for Khama to also move and reap those benefits.
Khama’s handlers should not be distracted by the shenanigans we are seeing coming out of the Sundowns camp, but like a true professional, our star should just play to his true potential until his contract is up and he can find another home to ply his trade without the distractions we are seeing right now.