Bil­liat’s dreams be­com­ing re­al­ity

Chronicle (Zimbabwe) - - Sport -

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

Khama Bil­liat

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