Khama Billiat Retires From International Football


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HARARE – Khama Billiat, who transformed himself into the poster boy of the Warriors, has decided to walk away from international football, at the age of 31, after exactly 10 years of service, for his country.

The Kaizer Chiefs forward captained the Warriors, in his final two matches, for Zimbabwe. Fittingly, both matches were played in the two stadiums he calls his homes, the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg and the National Sports Stadium, in Harare.

Billiat also exits the scene after having played for the very coach, Norman Mapeza, who gave him his breakthrough to play for the Warriors in March 2011.

According to sources, his move could trigger a wave of departures, from the Warriors, especially among the veterans of the side.

Wigan Athletic captain, Tendayi Darikwa, is believed to have expressed concern, over how the team’s capacity to punch according to their weight, was being frustrated by boardroom shortcomings. Darikwa did not feature in the last two World Cup qualifiers and was the first to pay tribute to Billiat.

“One of the best I’ve shared a football pitch with, well done on achieving a dream my brother,’’ tweeted Darikwa.

Billiat said he was proud to have served his country with distinction and the decision to walk away was one of the toughest he has made, in his life.

“It was all a dream, when I was young I always dreamt of representing the country, playing for the national team,’’ he said in a statement posted on his Twitter page.

“The dream, which seemed far-fetched for a young Khama in Mufakose came when I least expected it. The first day I donned the Warriors badge, I vowed to enjoy myself and always lift the country’s spirits.

“Scoring a goal at the Africa Cup of Nations finals is one moment I still relieve in my mind, even up to date.

“It is one of the many special moments I have experienced wearing the coveted yellow jersey.

“The feeling of scoring in a packed stadium for your nation is inexplicable.’’

He said the national team, and the battles they fought on the international front, made him a better player.

“I have met so many teammates, coaches and the national team and I appreciate every relationship I have built along the way,’’ he said.

“By playing for the Warriors, I have improved immensely as a player, it is an opportunity I will forever cherish.

“However, every story, no matter how beautiful, has an ending.

“This is probably the heaviest decision I have ever had to take in my life but it is a decision I take with a patriotic heart. “Like those who had to pave way for our generation of Warriors stars to emerge I have decided to retire from international football.

“I believe it is now time for me to pave way for new talent to blossom and serve the country in the same way that I did, or even better.

“I will forever be indebted to those who took a chance on me and moulded me into the international player I grew to become. “Thank you Zimbabwe for supporting me and my teammates for showing love with each outing.’’

At his peak, five years ago, he transformed himself into an irresistible symbol of seduction, and an agent of destruction, whipping up a frenzy of great expectations.

He was just 26.

It was his first game, at his first major football festival, and he produced a 90-minute show, pregnant with both quality and reliability, he stitched his name into the hearts of many witnesses.

His sublime performance, in the 2-2 draw against Algeria, at the 2017 AFCON finals, won him praise from many pundits.

“I think Billiat is one the best African talents I have seen in a long time. This guy can be on another level because he has everything,’’ former Ghanaian defensive pillar, Sammy Kuffour, said in his analysis on television.

“I think you have to move him to Europe.

“It would be very disappointing for Africa not to see him playing here. But, in terms of his career and what he can do at 26 years, you have to move him to Europe.” Kuffour, a European Champions League winner with Bayern Munich, said he was the most exciting African talent he had seen.

“He is amazing to watch, for me, being a defender, it would be very difficult to play against this boy.

“He is small and you don’t know what he is going to do. He is so quick with the ball, he has everything. For me I would love to see him go outside (overseas) for his future.

“I think it’s a very long time that I have seen such a player on the African continent. Who (else) can you imagine? Maybe, Sadio Mane?

“You see the dribbling and today it just wasn’t one-on-one with the goalkeeper and every time that he does something you got to pay service.

“So, it tells me that maybe the likes of (Jay Jay) Okocha, the likes of maybe Samuel Eto’o or whoever Abedi Pele, George Weah, that comes to mind but this guy can be another level.’’

Billiat was just 20 years, seven months and seven days old, when he was tossed into battle, in the searing heat of Mali, at one of the toughest venues, in African football. Billiat and Knowledge Musona have been the face of the Warriors, in the past decade. They will point to three straight appearances at the Nations Cup finals, something which only their generation has achieved, as evidence they have served their country well.

They can also argue they would have qualified for the 2018 World Cup finals but for their expulsion from the qualifiers, for the sins of their football leaders.

He leaves the scene after featuring for his country in 42 international match, with 14 goals to his credit.

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