MAY 1 2018 – IF this was his farewell present for the Mamelodi Sundowns fans, Khama Billiat could not have scripted it any better as the Zimbabwe international forward scored the goal that triggered a stunning comeback for the South African giants on Saturday en-route to a victory which sealed another league championship success story.
The 27-year-old Warrior is set to leave the South African giants after negotiations for an extension of his contract broke down and left him able to leave for free at the end of next month amid reports of a number of fine suitors from across the world.
The latest to join the party are iconic United States Major League Soccer side, Los Angeles Galaxy, who have in the past provided a home for the likes of former Liverpool and England captain Steve Gerrard and his countryman David Beckham.
LA Galaxy recently brought Swedish superstar, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, from Manchester United.
“Khama has a lot of offers, my man. He has offers from Belgium, Saudi Arabia, China, US and Qarabag in Azerbaijan,’’ his agent Michael Ngobeni of M-Sports Management told IOL.
“We have not signed a pre-contract with anyone and we don’t want to make rushed decisions. We want to take our time.
“Let’s give Khama an opportunity to finish on a high at Sundowns. Yes, he is leaving Sundowns and he wants to grow his career abroad. He has won everything in South Africa and doesn’t have any problems with Sundowns.’’
Billiat has been with Sundowns since 2013 and has won three league titles, a Nedbank Cup and Telkom Knockout Challenge to add to the CAF Champions League title and the CAF Super Cup which heralded the club’s arrival among the heavyweights of African football.
In his final match before his home fans at the Lucas Masterspieces Moripe Stadium on Saturday, Billiat provided the tonic that sparked Mamelodi Sundowns’ revival in the first half, in which they scored three goals, after having fallen behind to an early goal against Ajax Cape Town.
The result ensured Sundowns finally beat the challenge of Orlando Pirates, who slipped to defeat in Cape Town against Cape Town City on the same day, as they were crowned champions with a game to spare.
“Thank God we are in this place again (league champions), it was not easy. Our coach always pushes us, as much as he does,’’ Billiat told SuperSport TV.
“But this is a good feeling.
“It looks easy when we win like this, but there’s a lot of work being done. I just want to thank my teammates, they have been fantastic, great players to play with.”
It was his third league title in the past four years and coach Pitso Mosimane, who made history by becoming the first Sundowns gaffer to take the club to the summit of African football in 2016, overtook Ted Dumitru by winning a third league title with the club.
He has now become the club’s most successful coach in the era of the South African Premiership which, in itself, is a grand achievement given he arrived at the club under a bit of a cloud having failed to stamp his authority during his days as the Bafana Bafana coach.
“We got a strong captain (Hlompho Kekana) in the team who leads them on the pitch,’’ Mosimane told SuperSport TV.
“He has won the Champions League, he’s been everywhere. These guys are very good, they know how to deal with this,” he said in a post-match interview.
“It’s been tough. Been a long season. The league has never been under threat. We’ve been where we are for months and months. There was never a situation of points difference to say the league is gone.
“We knew we could do that. I told you before, I don’t think Mamelodi Sundowns can get full points from their last three games and so too Orlando Pirates and this is the reality.
“But we have to thank the players for being on transit, the travels in different hotels, playing every three days and not even complaining when you win the league like this, we won against well-rested teams.
“You got to thank the supporters, singing with their boards held up. Our president and his family, without them, we wouldn’t have been around. The players for their patience for sticking to it for five years.
“We’re at it again in the Champions League next year. And not forgetting my family, my wife, my children for being patient with us. We’ve been through a lot.”
Billiat has evolved into one of the best players in the South African Premiership during his stint at Sundowns and two years ago his football touched the heavens when he won the league’s Player of the Season, Players’ Player of the Season and Midfielder of the Season.
He has also developed into one of the key players for the Warriors where only the consistent Knowledge Musona has done more, in recent years, for the cause of the team.
There has been pressure, notably from Musona himself, for Billiat to move from the South African Premiership and join a club in Europe.
“I wish this time he will go somewhere else to better his football, where the professionalism level is higher,’’ Musona told The Herald after Billiat swept the board at the end-of-season awards in the South African Premiership two years ago.
“I hope he leaves South Africa and goes to a better club in Europe.’’ Herald