Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
FORTY-three years ago, the magical Ebson “Sugar’’ Muguyo blazed a trail for Zimbabwean footballers when he landed at Kaizer Chiefs and made such an impact he was recently named the 13th greatest Amakhosi player of all-time.
Only Tinashe Nengomasha, who was named at number 50, was the other Zimbabwean who made that list of the greatest 50 footballers to play for South Africa’s most supported football club, with Patrick “Ace’’ Ntsoelengo occupying top spot.
Nelson “Teenage’’ Dlala was named the second best of the lot, with Doctor Khumalo in fifth place and Lucas Radebe in 10th place. In his first full season with the Amakhosi in 1976, Muguyo scored 26 goals, 18 in the league and eight in knock-out competitions, and was recently honoured by club owner Kaizer Motaung, who invited him to watch the Soweto Derby and meet some of his old teammates.
More than 20 Zimbabwean footballers have featured for Chiefs since Muguyo started this romance with the Amakhosi in November 1975 and became the first Chiefs player to score a hattrick in the Soweto Derby in a 5-1 hammering of Orlando Pirates on December 3 that year.
Chiefs have become a favourite home for Zimbabwean footballers, with a number of them – Willard Katsande, Thomas Sweswe, Knowledge Musona, Ovidy Karuru, Matthew Rusike, Edmore Chirambadare, Mitchel Katsvairo, Abbas Amidu, Lincoln Zvasiya, Kingston Nkhatha, Zhaimu Jambo – playing for the club in recent years.
Tinashe Nengomasha, Onismor Bhasera, Teenage Hadebe, Robson Muchichwa,Mike Maringa, Liberty Masunda, Cleopas Dlodlo, Luke Petros, Kelvin Mushangazhike, Claudius Zviripayi are also the other Zimbabwean footballers who have had a flirtation with Chiefs.
Today, all the focus is on Khama Billiat, the diminutive forward who forced Chiefs to break the bank and sign him in a record transfer deal for the club after the Amakhosi beat a number of suitors, including some from Europe, who wanted to secure his services. Billiat has also chosen the number 11 jersey, which Musona used to wear at Chiefs, and which was turned into an iconic shirt by Dladla.He was named man-of-the-match by the fans in his first Chiefs match against his former club, Mamelodi Sundowns, in the Shell Helix Ultra Cup showdown at the FNB Stadium in Johannesburg last Saturday, which the Amakhosi lost 1-2 before 40 000 fans.
“Nkosi for life, thank you, you guys are wonderful,’’ said Billiat in a video that was posted on his Twitter page after he was handed his man-of-the-match award.
“We know we disappointed you today, but we are looking forward to the future.’’
Billiat has also opened up on his decision to move to Chiefs and follow in the footsteps of a number of his countrymen who have donned the iconic gold-and-black colours of the Amakhosi.
That decision has divided the Zimbabwean football community given that many fans expected him to move to Europe where they argued his game would be improved through interaction with better coaches and playing against tougher opposition. Those who have been criticising his move to remain in South Africa argue that Super Diski provides Billiat, who is a key member of the Warriors, with the comfort zone and he doesn’t haven’t to push himself to explore his talent and take his game to another level, the way he would possibly have done in Europe.
That his former Sundowns teammate Percy Tau has moved to the English Premiership has left many questioning the wisdom of Billiat’s decision to cross the floor and play for the Amakhosi who are without in a trophy in the past three seasons. But Billiat has, finally, revealed why he decided to join Chiefs.
“I considered a lot of things – my family and everyone, and Kaizer Chiefs had been on top of everyone – showing love and interest in me,’’ he told Kick-Off.
“I respect that and I had no choice but only to come here. There was a couple of them (offers from overseas) and, I think Chiefs, I respected them. I’ve always wanted to play for them and I was just waiting for them to say something so that I could move.”
The forward said Kaizer Chiefs football manager Bobby Motaung, who has always shown confidence in Zimbabwean players, showed him a lot of love when he visited his parents’ home in Harare to convince them that Billiat’s future would be better served at the Amakhosi.
“It’s something that’s emotional man. You know, coming to see my parents and talking to them has never happened in my career, and it’s something I take with my heart,” he told Kick-Off.
“I really respect that, and my family supported that. They felt so respected, and all I need is for my family to be happy.
“So, I was so happy about it and I thank the club and Bobby for coming to see my parents and speaking to them.”