BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
WARRIORS forward Khama Billiat is “feeling good” as he braces for what could be a defining third season at South African giants Kaizer Chiefs after overcoming personal injury setbacks.
Since arriving at Chiefs in 2018, Billiat has struggled to replicate the success he enjoyed in his five-year spell at Mamelodi Sundowns between 2013-2018 due to a combination of injuries and poor form.
Last season, the 30-year-old Zimbabwe international forward endured his worst season since his big break into the South African Premiership from CAPS United in 2010, as persistent injuries restricted him to just 13 appearances and one goal throughout the season.
For a player who was widely reported to be one of the top earners in the entire league, earning a before-tax annual salary of around R10 million such a poor return attracted a barrage of attacks from the South African media.
After working hard to regain his fitness ahead of the new season, the 30-year-old Warriors star, who was recently given a contract extension at the club will be aiming to finally lift an official trophy at Chiefs this season.
Billiat is expected to play a key role when Kaizer Chiefs begin their season today with a tough encounter against his former club Mamelodi Sundowns in the quarter-finals of the MTN8 when the two sides meet at the Lucas Moripe Stadium today.
And reflecting on his injury riddled stay at Chiefs so far; the Zimbabwe international said he was delighted to be back on the field of play and was hoping his club would start the season strongly.
“Ja (yes), definitely. It has been difficult for me, but for the first time I’m feeling good and it’s refreshing to be training with new guys. It’s amazing to come and meet the guys everyday while doing what we love to do,” said Billiat in an interview with Kaizer Chiefs’ media department on Friday.
“It’s refreshing to have the guys back. The energy is different and we are in a good start. We need to start strong and we know that Sundowns are not an easy side to play against. We will try to get everything we need from the coaches right before the season. We are seeing smiles and guys are looking good.”
The Mufakose-bred star won two South African league titles with Mamelodi Sundowns and the Caf Champions League in 2016.
In 2016, he was voted the PSL Player of the Season and the PSL Players’ Player of the Season after capping a fine performance in the 2015-2016 season.
His career has, however, taken a dip since his move to Kaizer Chiefs in 2018 from The Brazilians, but he will head into the new campaign with high hopes of finally living up to his high billing.
Billiat was substituted in Kaizer Chiefs’ victory over Orlando Pirates in the Carling Black Label Cup after he went down in what looked like a serious injury last weekend.
However, Chiefs coach Stuart Baxter has since revealed that the skillful attacker will be available for selection in their season opener.
“Khama is doing excellently in training. He is looking sharp, enthusiastic. He is probably a better all-round player than I thought he would be, but that’s what happens when you work with players – you get to know them better,” Baxter told journalists ahead of today’s game.
“Whether that means he will start, or he is a very interesting guy from the bench, the next couple of days will tell me. But certainly Khama is looking like he is enjoying the work we are doing and, two, he is showing his quality.”
Billiat’s return to full fitness will be good news for Warriors coach Zdravko Logarusic, who is eager to have him for Zimbabwe’s crunch World Cup qualifier against South Africa at the National Sports Stadium next month.