BY HENRY MHARA IN PARKTOWN, SOUTH AFRICA
WARRIORS stand-in captain Khama Billiat has warned his Kaizer Chiefs clubmates on duty with South Africa not to expect any favours from Zimbabwe as the midfielder plots to be a Bafana Bafana party pooper.
The two nations clash in a 2022 Fifa World Cup penultimate Group G qualifier at the FNB Stadium tomorrow night, a match the hosts are more desperate to win than the visitors.
Kick-off is 9pm.
Many South Africans, who have had the chance to meet Zimbabwean players here, have been asking them for just one thing: to give away the match to Bafana Bafana.
But Biiliat is ready to break the hearts of his Chiefs’ teammates as well as club’s fans who adore him.
Despite Zimbabwe having no interest in the qualification competition anymore, for Billiat, the match is still very important.
“It’s a big game and we know South Africa need the points more than us, but we need to be professional and represent our country with honour,” Billiat said.
“We are taking the game seriously and, like I said, we are professionals representing our big nation so we are going to apply the things that we are working on at training. We believe in the coach and in his tactics, so if we do what he tells us to do then we stand a chance to get a good result.”
Billiat will come up against some familiar faces, most of them his club-mates at Kaizer Chiefs.
Five Kaizer Chiefs players including his closest friend Keegan Dolly are in the Bafana Bafana squad.
Goalkeeper Bruce Bvuma, Njabulo Blom, Njabulo Ngcobo and Sfiso Hlanti are the other Chiefs stars who are in Hugo Broos’ final 24-man squad for the match.
Percy Tau, now with Al Ahly, is also very close to Billiat who he played with at Mamelodi Sundowns a few years ago.
The winger is back in the Bafana Bafana squad after missing the team’s last match due to injury.
Billiat is one of the eight players in the Warriors camp plying their trade in South Africa.
“It’s good that we know each other, they know me as much as I know them. They know a lot of guys in our team who play here, but that does not mean we are going to make life easy for them,” said Billiat.
“We are going into the game motivated and with a steady state of mind. I want the players to play their normal game. Everyone who is here deserves to be here and just has to feel comfortable representing the nation. This is a big stage and a chance that we always dreamt of when we were young. So being in the national team you need to be very relaxed, make sure you enjoy the moment and work very hard to win every match.”
Billiat has been handed the captaincy by interim coach Norman Mapeza in the absence of skipper Knowledge Musona and his vice Ovidy Karuru.
Musona is out injured while Karuru was not selected because he is club-less.
The 31-year-old said he was humbled by the honour bestowed on him to lead the team, which will be his second time to wear the captain’s armband.
The only other time he wore the armband in national team colours was in a friendly game against Malawi last year.
“It’s a huge responsibility, but I’m a professional and I have to take it. I will just have to try not to put myself under pressure, to feel comfortable and do what the coach wants me to do.”
Asked if he felt more pressure now that he has been handed responsibility, he said: “I have been captain before for both the nation and at club level. I was captain at Mamelodi Sundowns at some point, so it’s not something that would really change anything about me. I’m just going to be myself and try to be the best I can be. I want to remain professional and be a good teammate to lead the team.”
The team conducted its third training session at Sandton Sports Club yesterday morning and was expected to have a feel of the match venue last night.
Zimbabwe, with one point in Group G, are out of contention for next year’s World Cup ticket and will be out to spoil the party for log leaders South Africa who are hoping to win and remain in pole position to progress to the next stage of the qualifiers ahead of Ghana.
The Warriors are using the remaining two qualifying matches, including the final qualifier against Ethiopia in Harare on Sunday, to prepare for the Africa Cup of Nations finals which kick off in Cameroon in just over a month.
“We want to prepare ourselves for future games, make sure we know each other better and grow as a team,” Billiat added.
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