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ZIFA to woo Billiat out of retirement

by Staff reporter
01 Dec 2021 at 05:35hrs | Views
ZIFA are set to persuade midfielder, Khama Billiat, to come out of retirement and have one last dance with the Warriors at the 2021 AFCON finals, in Cameroon, next month.

Billiat, who has been the Warriors poster boy for the last decade, made a surprise announcement he was quitting international football, last month. It followed the completion of the chaotic 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

However, many still believe the 31-year-old can add value to the national team at the upcoming AFCON finals. Envoys will be sent to his base in South Africa, to negotiate the possibility of him returning, to the national team fold.

Legendary football commentator, Charles ‘‘CNN'' Mabika, has already said he is open to be part of that delegation.

Warriors team manager, Wellington Mpandare, yesterday said Billiat was still treasured within the national side's set-up.

Skipper Knowledge Musona is also expected to retire from international football, after the tournament. Both players have served the nation with distinction, in the last 10 years.

"I still have to engage Khama Billiat and try to talk to him about the possibility of playing at the 2021 AFCON finals in Cameroon,'' said Mpandare.

"Obviously, we knew that one day he would retire from international football but we all thought that the time would come after the AFCON tournament. Even Knowledge has said that he will play his last AFCON in Cameroon.

‘‘So, we are hoping to have a good engagement.''

Billiat did not give reasons for his decision, to walk away from the Warriors, except to say the time had come to allow a new generation of players, to come through the ranks.

The forward's name is part of the provisional 40-member delegation which was submitted to CAF by ZIFA, before the November 15, deadline.

It was also the same day that the Kaizer Chiefs star made the shock announcement.

The decision also came as a surprise to then interim Warriors coach, Norman Mapeza.

Mpandare said they were going ahead with their preparations, for the AFCON tournament, despite the current standoff, which led to the suspension of the ZIFA board, by the Sports Commission. The Warriors have no coach, following the expiry of the short-term contract, which Mapeza had entered into, with the suspended ZIFA board.

"We are continuing doing the ground work for the AFCON and, with what is happening, we just have to do our bit while we wait for directives, from the authorities,'' said Mpandare.

"But, according to our plans, we would have wanted to begin camp on December 15. ‘‘Right now, the tricky part is that we do not have a coach and this makes the planning a bit difficult.'' Zimbabwe are in Group B, alongside Senegal, Guinea and Malawi.

They are scheduled to play their first game on January 10 against the Lions of Teranga, who are the group favourites.

Mpandare said the team needed, at least, two weeks in camp, before departing for Cameroon. This month promises to be a busy period as they also need to submit their final itinerary to CAF, stating their travel arrangements, by December 15. Zimbabwe have to be in Cameroon, at least, by January 5, 2022. ZIFA were hoping to set up a training base in Cameroon, or one of the neighbouring countries in Central, or West Africa.

The plan was to play some friendly matches against some of the participating teams.

"These are some of the things that we should have been discussing with the coach,'' said Mpandare. ‘‘For now, I can only do so much because I have limitations to my roles as team manager.

"I cannot do everything on my own, I have been monitoring the players, checking if they are playing and how they are doing, in terms of fitness. Now, we are definitely running behind time because, under normal circumstances, we should have been finalising our plans, for the AFCON preparations.

"Invitations should be written to clubs, at least two weeks, before the players are released.

‘‘So, since we wanted these guys in camp by December 15, according to the original plans, it means the letters should be dispatched, as soon as possible.''

He said failure to do so will see some clubs holding on to their players. "If we fall short, it would give some clubs ammunition, to refuse to release the players,'' said Mpandare.

‘‘Remember, most of the clubs, especially in Europe, are reluctant to release players in January. This is also the time that we should be working on the camping logistics, discussing the contracts, allowances and match fees.

‘‘Otherwise we could end up with the same situation that we faced in Egypt.''

Source - The Herald
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