JOHANNESBURG – Khama Billiat confirmed yesterday afternoon that he, too, admires Kaizer Chiefs coach Giovanni Solinas. It’s essentially a love-back.
You would have noticed that the Amakhosi mentor can’t hide his affection for Billiat, who arrived at Naturena just a few days before the Italian was appointed Amakhosi coach in July, as he gives him the occasional curtsey when he has substituted him.
And why shouldn’t he - the talismanic Zimbabwean attacker has already proven and justified why Chiefs courted him for so long, snapping him up when his contract with Mamelodi Sundowns expired in June.
“I love him too,” Billiat said yesterday while sitting next to his coach as both were recipients of the Absa Premiership Coach and Player of the Month awards for September.
“To be honest, he is like this with everyone at training. I am really grateful to have a coach like him. He motives you and you want to play for him, after all this is about the team, not individuals. It’s nice when you get personal awards, but the team must be winning.”
Solinas has been so taken by Billiat that he has gone as far as putting out wild statements like “Barcelona have 10 men, plus Lionel Messi and Chiefs have 10 players, plus Khama Billiat”, and when he makes changes to his line-up Billiat hardly gets omitted.
He will be key again for Amakhosi tomorrow afternoon when they host Polokwane City at Durban’s Moses Mabhida Stadium, a game that will be played behind closed doors as punishment for the club’s unruly supporters after they vandalised the same venue back in April when Steve Komphela lost to Free State Stars in a Nedbank Cup semi-final.
Although he’s always been a game decider, a match winner even at Sundowns, Billiat certainly looks revived at Chiefs. “I have done a few things differently,” he said, without really going into further detail despite only saying he has managed to be injury free.
Was he sidelined at Sundowns for anything else other than football reasons, maybe like not wanting to sign a new contract?
“To come to Chiefs you should humble yourself and do your best. There’s no reason to come here and not work. What happened before (no trophies in three years) doesn’t affect me. I need to win with Chiefs,” Billiat said.
“They have won before and I want to be part of that with them. I just want to be part of a successful team. It’s a different feeling to win with Chiefs, everyone knows that they are the biggest team in the country. I would never be satisfied with what I won before (at Sundowns, where he won everything).
I want to do better and with the right players around me, and that gives me more energy.”
Another one of Solinas’ famous remarks about Billiat is that he should be playing in Europe because he is just too good for the Premier Soccer League.
“Maybe I haven’t done enough. To play there you have to be at your best, and maybe I haven’t always been at my best and it’s not the right time,” Billiat said.