by GARIKAI MAFIRAKUREVA
KHAMA Billiat’s primary school teacher Ferdinand Chenjerai has claimed that the Warriors star missed out on joining Manchester City in 2014 only because he was two years older than the cut-off age.
Billiat has been one of the best players playing on the African continent over the last few years but has so far failed to break into Europe.
Chenjerai, now based in the United Kingdom, coached Billiat at Gwinyiro Primary School in Harare’s Mufakose high-density suburb and says the Warriors star could have played in England.
He rubbished claims that the now 29-year-old might have misrepresented his date of birth to present himself as a younger player than he actually is.
Outspoken South African coach and analyst Mlungisi ‘Professor’ Ngubane recently courted controversy after he claimed that Billiat’s struggles at Kaiser Chiefs, where he scored just three goals all season, could be attributed to ageing.
Chenjerai said that he coached Billiat when he was nine years old and the player could have tried to manipulate his age in 2014 when a chance to join the Manchester City Academy presented itself.
He told NewsDay Sport that he had personally tried to link up the player with a Manchester City move, which would have been successful had the forward been 22 years old then.
Chenjerai said he tried to use his connection with Joe Makin, the academy recruitment coordinator at Manchester City but let down Billiat. He even said Newcastle United also expressed interest in him but boardroom squabbles stalled the deal.
“Manchester City said they could have taken Khama if he was 22 years old or younger. He was 24 at the time. He could have cheated because that was going to be a far much better deal than his current one,” he said.
“I started to work with him (Khama) at a tender age of nine.
“The boy was among the youngest players in my team. He is one of my success stories. Teams and agents might have taken over, but I personally spotted and groomed quite a number of other youngsters. We won several silverware with the boys. I know Khama will soon find his form. I believe in him. He is just going through a rough patch of his career, but he will definitely bring back his magic touch.”