The tone in Khama Billiat’s voice changes when he talks about the milestones he reached this year. His voice drops down a bit and he doesn’t make eye contact because the subject embarrasses him.
This year the Mamelodi Sundowns’ forward won the league with the Brazilians with a record 71-points haul.
He played an instrumental role in that success, adding brilliance to the much-talked about CBD that consists of Leonardo Castro, Billiat and Keagan Dolly. Billiat went on to win the Footballer of the Year, Player’s Player of the Year and Midfielder of the Year awards at the PSL's end-of-season function in May. The following month he led Zimbabwe in qualifying for the Africa Cup of Nations for the first time in a decade.
The 26-year-old now finds himself 90 minutes away from being an African champion with the Brazilians. Sundowns will leave for Egypt tomorrow with a 3-0 lead from the first leg of the CAF Champions League final against Zamalek as they look to wrap up the match in Alexandria on Sunday.
“This was a blessed year,” Billiat said. “But I believe that I can still do and achieve more. I have an appetite for bigger things. There is still more that we can do as a club. There is still more that we can do as a nation (Zimbabwe). There is still more that I can do individually.
“You can never do enough.
“There’s always something bigger to chase. If we win the Champions League, there is the Club World Cup. If we win the Afcon, there is the desire to be in the World Cup. If I win the Footballer of the Year award in South Africa, there is the African Footballer of the Year award. I don’t want to say that I could have at the end of my career. I want to say that I did it.”
The Zimbabwean made the long-list of nominees for CAF’s Footballer of the Year and Africa-based Footballer of the Year awards.
If the Brazilians are crowned African champions, he will be in a good position to walk away with one of these awards, if not both, because of the mark he has made on the continent this year. Billiat smiles when he talks about the first mark he ever made on his body.
“I just wanted to go through pain when I did my first tattoo (It reads: 'Thank God for who I am'). I wanted to test myself, to see how strong I am. It was a way of getting over my fears. I felt that if I could stomach that pain, I can handle any pain. It was painful but I handled it.”
That tattoo is now part of a large collection all over his body, including the names of his siblings on his left arm.
His family carried Billiat when he went through pain in his football career during the times where it looked like it wouldn’t take off. His career wasn’t stunted by lack of talent, everyone around him knew that he would make it, but it was things beyond his control, like when Aces Youth Academy had financial problems. It was in that academy that one coach, Expensive Chitukutuku, had a prophesy about how Zimbabwean football would be redeemed.
“We were young, before we even played for the national team, and he joked that the nation can only play in the Afcon again when Knowledge (Musona) and Khama are strikers,” Billiat said.
“We laughed because it seemed far-fetched. But when we see these things happen, we realise that this is our destiny. I get speechless when I look at where I am at and the things that I have achieved.”