JOHANNESBURG – Khama Billiat is seven months into his new job as a Kaizer Chiefs player, but he’s yet to hit the form that saw him inspire Mamelodi Sundowns to African dominance two years ago.
But if Chiefs need a messiah today, the Zimbabwean forward has vowed to deliver the Glamour Boys to the ‘promised land’.
In what promises to be a thriller on Saturday (3.30pm kickoff), Chiefs lock horns with arch rivals Orlando Pirates at FNB Stadium in the second round of the Absa Premiership.
It’s a Soweto Derby that Chiefs need to win, having been the Buccaneers’ whipping boys in their last three meetings.
The stature of this match is such that a win for Amakhosi will likely give their supporters some solace and comfort, should it be that they endure yet another barren run this season – with the league title unlikely, and possible Nedbank Cup honours still a long way down the line.
So for now, Billiat is aiming at giving the millions of Amakhosi faithful something to cheer about.
“For me, I look at it positively, and I am sure that my teammates do as well,” he said of the sentiment that Chiefs’ supporters might be pinning their hopes on him to end Pirates’ dominance.
“It could be worse if I went into this game without people expecting something from me.
“From the day you join this club, the expectations are high – even if you play a friendly game, you have to do something. We enjoy pressure, it is beautiful. And when you are successful, it is positive.”
In his first Soweto Derby on October 27 last year, Billiat came close to becoming the hero that Chiefs’ supporters had longed for as he put his side ahead in the 15th minute, only to be denied by strikes from Innocent Maela and Vincent Pule.
Today’s clash, though, will offer the 28-year-old attacker another go at achieving that milestone.
“Everyone likes to score, but at the end of the day, the team comes first,” Billiat said. “But for me, I really enjoy assisting more than scoring. It makes me feel good.”
In the seven months Billiat has been at Chiefs, he’s done it all. He’s gone from being worshipped and publicly bowed to, to an extent that one would think he’s the son of the king who’s on the jersey’s insignia, and to a player who’s found himself kicking his heels on the bench.
Chiefs’ first coach this season, Giovanni Solinas, was not shy of expressing his admiration for Billiat, even comparing his role to that of Lionel Messi’s at Barcelona.
However, it hasn’t been the same hospitality under Solinas’ successor, Ernst Middendorp.
German Middendorp, who’s only been around for two months, has so far treated all his players equally – giving those on the fringes under his predecessor a chance to impress, while others seen as regulars dropped to the bench.
Match Day: Kaizer Chiefs vs. Orlando Pirates, Saturday 09 February 2019, FNB Stadium, 15h30— Kaizer Chiefs (@KaizerChiefs) February 9, 2019
PLEASE COME EARLY TO THE STADIUM TO AVOID ANY KICK-OFF DELAYS.
There will be road closures as well
NO TICKET SALES AT THE STADIUM!#WozaNazo #TheBattleIsOn #HailTheChief #SowetoDerby pic.twitter.com/Wd2EqrePRE
Billiat insists that everything is done to benefit the team as a whole.
“We are not employed by luck, because the club’s management have seen something special in each and every individual, and no one is better than the other; we are all important.
“When a player is injured, someone else plays, and when a coach needs a different tactic, then he puts another player in – not making the other look bad. We are one team.”@Mihlalibaleka