Senior Sports Reporter
FORMER Warriors skipper, Peter Ndlovu, feels Khama Billiat might have been suffering from burn-out after playing a lot of football in the past few years.
The Kaizer Chiefs forward has been a subject of criticism, from analysts and fans, who feel he has lost the magic which made him one of the hottest properties in the South African Premiership.
The 30-year-old was even pushed to the bench by Warriors coach, Zdravko Logarusic, in the reverse fixture of the 2021 AFCON qualifier against Algeria last week.
This followed a below-par showing, in the first match, in Algiers, where the Warriors crashed to a 1-3 defeat.
Billiat had the perfected opportunity to give his team the lead in the Algerian capital, but drilled his effort from close range, straight at the goalkeeper.
When he was thrown into the fray in Harare, he didn’t provide the kind of value associated with his presence and, when he failed to beat his marker in a one-on-one situation, Loga’s decision appeared to be vindicated.
However, there were signs, when Kaizer Chiefs drew 2-2 against Golden Warriors in a Supa Diski match at the weekend, that Billiat could be on his way to the form which many expect from him.
Chiefs legend, Gardner Seale, was impressed by Billiat’s show in that match and said the Zimbabwean must be given the freedom to make mistakes.
“Allow him to make mistakes man, allow him to make mistakes, don’t try to limit him,” Seale told KickOff.com.
“On Saturday, for me it wasn’t about winning, but once you play like that then the symptoms of winning will come.
“After such a long time I think Saturday’s performance is what made Chiefs sign him (in the first place).
“I think what they’ve seen in him is (that kind of) performance. He was absolutely great.
“Besides Billiat, the overall performance was just okay. I think they showed character.
“When they lost the ball they made sure they got it back quickly. Once you have that attitude I think half the battle is won you see.
“So Billiat was also doing the same, like I said, his brilliance was brilliant. Obviously he cannot play alone but that combination we saw at Sundowns, it was there.’’
Billiat’s best seasons in South Africa were at Mamelodi Sundowns, where he worked alongside Ndlovu, who is the club’s team manager. The Warriors star was instrumental in powering the Brazilians to back-to-back league championships and also helped them win the CAF Champions League.
“He has played lot of football, that what we must know also, loss of form is caused by too much football, and must be aligned with rest,’’ said Ndlovu.
“There are a lot of things going around a player, involving fatigue and mental (issues), but loss of form is just a temporary thing, but it’s how you come back.’’
The former Coventry City and Sheffield United forward said he also experienced such a slump in form during his playing days.
“How I managed all these things, during my playing days, was you look at what can bring you back into the game, so you have to contribute for the team, with or without the ball,’’ said Ndlovu.
“And, you have to actually play for the team, so Khama will do that and he is going to do that.
“I hope this message helps him get through anything, and it’s not only for me but also his teammates, and also his captain in the national team, and other players around him.
“You know, when you have a good player, you always pat him and say “come on boy we need you now,” and they will feel the importance, they feel that they are very important and will rise to the occasion.
“So, for Khama, nobody will take that quality away from him, and he will come back and believe you me, he is a quality player.’’
Ndlovu said he always tries to bring the best out of the current crop of Warriors.
“I am always talking to the boys, and say guys all these records I am holding, take them, they are yours, and they are there for taking,’’ he said.
“I encourage everyone to work hard towards things they want to achieve.
“I think it is normal for a player to be off form, to lose form but those with a strong character will always come back.
“The loss of form, it’s only temporary thing, but the quality is permanent. So you have quality, and you will come back strong, as I have always influenced you, and have always advised you, I am there anytime, we talk.
“I think it is my responsibility to pick a phone and call the boy and say “look, this is only going to come to pass.”