CAPE TOWN. — Khama Billiat is back in the headlines and for good reasons — he is now firing Kaizer Chiefs back to life and is being courted back by his country for one last dance with the Warriors.
And for the first time since he left Mamelodi Sundowns, where he transformed himself into the dominant footballer in the South African Premiership, the beauty of Billiat’s football is writing the headlines.
Even his country now feel he has so much value to add to the Warriors and should be persuaded to play at the 2021 AFCON finals, in Cameroon, next month.
That’s a stunning turnaround for a player who last month appeared disillusioned by the game, and fighting on two fronts, for club and country, as he struggled to match the high standards he set for himself.
He was handed the honour of captaining the Warriors by interim coach Norman Mapeza, but fired blanks in the two 2022 World Cup qualifiers against South Africa and Ethiopia.
As he was substituted in the 1-1 draw against Ethiopia, there was a feeling the Zimbabweans fans had seen the last of Billiat, something which was confirmed by his statement a few days later.
However, things can change quickly in football and, as they say in this game, form is temporary and class is permanent.
Yesterday’s article in the The Herald revealing ZIFA were going to try and persuade Billiat, to come out of retirement sparked a media feast around South Africa, with headlines screaming about a possible reunion of the player and the Warriors.
It’s easy to understand why things have changed so quickly, with Billiat back in form, at the Amakhosi.
The Zimbabwe international has undeniably been at the heart of the Chiefs rejuvenation and has witnessed first-hand the jaunty demeanour of his teammates when celebrating a goal.
As Chiefs’ fortunes have taken an upward turn, Billiat has rediscovered his mojo.
Together, with the inspirational Keagan Dolly, Chiefs now find themselves in a lofty second place on the standings.
Last weekend, the two acclaimed players collectively bagged three goals against Swallows, and it sparked touchline celebrations that would have made the “king of goal celebrations’’ Roger Milla look on with envy.
The 31-year-old Zimbabwean will play his 100th match for Chiefs when next he runs out for the Amakhosi.
It is a milestone that he should pass on Saturday at FNB Stadium against Cape Town City.
Of course, Billiat often led the way with the touchline celebrations, but it showed how much the goals meant to the team.
Now, a few days on, Billiat has paused to reflect on the jollification and appealed to his teammates to temper the celebrations.
“We are professional enough,” said Billiat. “We used to celebrate when we were young right?
“Now, we celebrate professionally. We don’t need to be out there celebrating like the league is finished.
“We have to stay focused.”
Billiat’s admonition comes a few days ahead of their home clash against struggling City on Saturday.
He would like to see the team playing down the hype and focus on “getting the basics right”.
He is acutely aware that the threat of a dangerous coronavirus pandemic and its latest variants is real and ever-present.
“I want to thank God for this opportunity and for keeping us strong,” said Billiat. “You know we are living in a difficult time right now.
“We pray to God that he keeps us strong and that we have this strong team.
“We have got a strong squad, and I always trust my boys. Whether I play or don’t play we are positive about the result. We work hard like we always do.
“I am happy for the team, and I am happy that we keep getting stronger and stronger. We understand each other and the importance of collecting the maximum points that we needed.”
Billiat says there is no time for high jinks or gloat at the team’s lofty second-place berth on the latest standings.
“It’s not easy, but we are not looking at the table,” said Billiat.
“Right now, we want to focus on the things that the coaches want us to do.
“We want to focus on getting the basics right, which will always help us get the good results and performances and then we will look at the table afterwards.
“We will stay focused and humble, and we keep on working hard for the team.”
Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter is hoping Billiat and Dolly, together with skipper Bernard Parker will again apply the Midas touch on Saturday.
He said the trio squeezed the life out of Swallows and produced some clinical finishing.
“They pressed very well in the first half, and that resulted in us getting a couple of good chances,” said Baxter.
“If you give them an inch, they will take a yard. They found themselves a little bit of space, and three goals were the result.” — Sports Reporter/msn.com