Billiat’s dreams becoming reality
THE next four months, from now in October to February, will take Khama Billiat to levels that he never thought he would play at. It starts with the Caf Champions League final with Mamelodi Sundowns followed by the Africa Cup of Nations with Zimbabwe.
If the Brazilians are successful in the Champions League, the Fifa Club World Cup will be sandwiched by these two continental competitions. Real Madrid, with Cristiano Ronaldo from whom Billiat borrowed his goal celebration, are likely to be Sundowns’ opponents in the final should the Brazilians go all the way there.
For a long time, Billiat didn’t even dream about being at this level. He believed it was too far-fetched to even happen in his dreams. But now it’s a reality, thanks to Sundowns’ coach Pitso Mosimane who dared Billiat and his teammates to dream big.
“He has made me look at football in a different light,” Billiat said. “When I joined Sundowns, I didn’t look at football the way I do now. But he made sure that he talks to the players in a way that we share the same vision.
“I never believed in watching ou r games. I just played football, went home afterwards and the following day would look at the next game. But now, I don’t even have to be told to watch my game. It comes naturally because that’s where I learn to get better as a player. It has made a huge difference in my game.”
Just to show how high the demands are at Sundowns, Billiat spent the better part of Thursday at Illovo hardly talking about the Telkom Knockout that brought him there. He answered questions about the MTN8 final that Sundowns lost to Bidvest Wits and the Champions League final where they will take on Zamalek from next weekend over two legs. The Telkom Knockout, for which Sundowns were drawn against Polokwane City, was mentioned as an afterthought even though the Brazilians are the holders and it starts in a fortnight’s time on October 19. This talk of playing and winning so many trophies was foreign to Billiat three years ago. But since he joined Sundowns in 2013, he has won five trophies with the club and in May he was crowned South Africa’s Footballer of the Year. “Before I joined Sundowns, I didn’t open my eyes to the bigger picture,” Billiat said. “At Ajax (Cape Town), they made me a better person. I got to know the PSL teams and how I should approach the game. They helped me understand the basics. But when I came to Sundowns, it was trophies, trophies and more trophies. Everything is about winning. I play with the best players, it brings the best out of you.” Billiat and his Zimbabwean countrymen will spend this international break resting because they are not involved in the World Cup qualifiers and their association couldn’t organise a friendly. Mosimane must have welcomed Billiat’s rest. He is trying to get his South African players who are registered for the Champions League to not play in Bafana Bafana’s friendly against Ghana tomorrow, just four days before Sundowns’ clash with Zamalek. B i l l ia t ’s disappointment of missing out on a chance play in the World Cup with Zimbabwe would be washed away by playing in the Club World Cup. “I have never dreamt about this before, it seemed too far-fetched. But now that it’s happening, I need to appreciate it. I plan to enjoy playing in the Africa Cup of Nations and to make sure that we win the Champions League. That would bring me more joy than us being there because it means nothing reaching the final and not winning it.” — The Star