‘King’ Khama quite con­fi­dent he’ll cap­ture the miss­ing trin­ket in his crown

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FRONT PAGE - NJABULO NGIDI

THE clos­est that Khama Bil­liat came to roy­alty as a child was feel­ing like a king.

But in a two-legged Caf Cham­pi­ons League fi­nal against Za­malek, start­ing at Lu­cas Moripe Sta­dium at 3pm to­day be­fore the re­turn leg in Alexan­dria next Sun­day, Bil­liat and his Mamelodi Sun­downs team­mates have a chance to be kings of Africa.

Sun­downs al­ready rule South Africa while Bil­liat was crowned the PSL Foot­baller of the Year in May. If the Brazil­ians beat five- time African cham­pi­ons Za­malek, then they will also rule the con­ti­nent and go to Ja­pan for the Fifa Club World Cup next month to meet other con­ti­nen­tal rulers.

A lit­tle em­bar­rassed talk­ing about his per­sonal achieve­ments, Bil­liat speaks with more au­thor­ity when dis­cussing the time that his fa­ther, Mustafa, bought him his first pair of boots.

“I felt like a king. He made me spe­cial among my friends be­cause I had proper boots while some of them didn’t. I was the one be­ing asked to bor­row my friends when I wasn’t play­ing. He re­ally sur­prised me,” he said.

“I re­mem­ber I was sup­posed to get school shoes, but I cried for those boots. He got them for me and he didn’t have a prob­lem with it be­cause as a par­ent, if the school shoes are fin­ished then you must buy new ones. Not less im­por­tant things like foot­ball boots.

“I was taken aback be­cause that’s how much he be­lieved in me and my tal­ent. Now I can get boots any time I want them,” he added.

And Bil­liat will need to lace up his goalscoring boots this af­ter­noon if Sun­downs are to make the most of their home- town ad­van­tage be­fore jet­ting off to Egypt.

The Brazil­ians’ class of 2001, along with Or­lando Pi­rates in 2013, were de­nied Cham­pi­ons League glory af­ter play­ing to a stale­mate at home against Al-Ahly.

The Egyp­tian giants wrapped things up in Cairo for two of their eight con­ti­nen­tal ti­tles. Za­malek will look to do the same thing.

But Bil­liat be­lieves that this is Sun­downs’ chance to rule the con­ti­nent.

The Zim­bab­wean has also waited a long time for his chance. He once even quit play­ing af­ter fi­nan­cial prob­lems at Aces Youth Academy lim­ited their pro­gramme. Kaizer Chiefs came to Aces and signed his friend Knowl­edge Mu­sona.

Ajax Cape Town even­tu­ally brought Bil­liat to South Africa and gave him his break in the top-flight, be­fore he joined Sun­downs three years ago.

The 26-year-old has won al­most ev­ery­thing there is to win with the Pretoria out­fit, and a Cham­pi­ons League win­ner’s medal is about the only thing that’s miss­ing.

Bil­liat ar­gues that what he saw from Sun­downs in last year’s Cham­pi­ons League against five- time African win­ners TP Mazembe in the sec­ond round gave him the be­lief that they can go all the way this sea­son.

“They made our team to be mon­sters. They made us more ar­ro­gant and stronger be­cause we could have beaten them. But we didn’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing at that level. We have that now,” he said.

“The coach ( Pitso Mosi­mane) had be­lieved in us and told us that there is noth­ing scary about Mazembe.

“He said they were just like us. We couldn’t beat them be­cause we didn’t have the ex­pe­ri­ence of play­ing in that stage as a group.

“That game made us a bet­ter team be­cause when we watched the game af­ter­wards, we got an­gry with our­selves be­cause we saw we could have won.

“Lit­tle mis­takes played a role in us los­ing. We heard that their coach said that we were their tough­est op­po­nents,” he added.

“We thought that if we could be tough to the team that won the Cham­pi­ons League last year and we weren’t even at our best, then we can be cham­pi­ons the fol­low­ing year by go­ing into the tour­na­ment wiser and with­out fear.”

Mosi­mane has told his play­ers to re­main calm and not do any­thing out of the or­di­nary lead­ing up to ar­guably the big­gest match of their lives.

“I told them that they don’t have to change the way they have been do­ing things,” he said. “You have to do what you did that led you to be in the fi­nal. You have to ask your­selves: ‘How did I get to the fi­nal?’

“Look at the good and the neg­a­tives. You take the good and try to im­prove the chal­lenges that we had, be it on the tac­ti­cal, tech­ni­cal, men­tal or so­cial side.

“I told them that just be­cause this is the big­gest game of your lives, I don’t want you to change your lives dras­ti­cally.

“Now you start sleep­ing at 7pm, be­cause you want to sleep early and you change your cy­cle. That will af­fect you in the match.

“So do what you have been do­ing. If you have been sleep­ing at 10pm, do so,” Mosi­mane added. “But ob­vi­ously there are things that you might have done that were a chal­lenge to your prepa­ra­tion, you shouldn’t go with that.”

KHAMA BIL­LIAT: Cher­ishes his first pair of boots

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