By Anesu Chakanetsa
IT is barely a month to go before the Warriors start preparations for the Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) 2021 edition in Cameroon, but the football atmosphere in Zimbabwe has become dramatic.
On his Twitter account, Khama Billiat announced that he is hanging his boots from international football, thus he will not take part in AFCON 2021.
The tournament will kick-off on January 9 2022.
Billiat’s disappointing news comes after the Warriors have heard a lukewarm Quatar 2022 World Cup qualifiers campaign.
The Warriors only scored two goals and attained two points from six matches.
Such a performance, and maybe Billiat’s quitting of the Warriors, has led the Sports Recreation Committee (SRC) to suspend the ZIFA board, a move that might lead to a lot of drama.
There are serious accusations of gross public funds abuse by ZIFA, as well as sexual harassment on the part of the national women’s soccer team, the Mighty Warriors, during their COSAFA tournament last month.
The draw against Ethiopia on Sunday left the Warriors 16 matches without a win, an all-time low statistic for the Warriors.
Ironically, the team that is first on alphabetical order in Africa, Algeria, keeps on maintaining their unbeaten run, while the country that is last, Zimbabwe, keeps on being bashed. What an antonym.
Norman Mapeza was expected to turn things around, but continues singing the same tune as Zdravsko Logarusic, the former Warriors gaffer.
The two, Mapeza and Billiat, have an interesting relationship. Billiat is walking away from a team coached by a coach who introduced him to the national team, exactly 10 years ago.
Billiat has seen a myriad of coaches bellowing instructions to him and has always been a regular in the national team.
He has scored 14 goals in 42 matches for the national team.
What could have led Billiat to quit?
It is every player’s dream to play in a World Cup tournament.
The Warriors’ Quatar 2020 Qualifiers were tepid from the start, with the team facing torrid times against Somalia in the preliminary round of the tournament.
But Billiat saved the day when he scored a winner in the dying minutes of the game.
Zimbabwe then qualified for the group stages, where Billiat failed to score a single goal.
Former Harare City star, Allan Gahadzikwa, feels Billiat’s resignation has something to do with Zimbabwe not qualifying for the World Cup.
“He is disappointed by the fact that he has not appeared in any World Cup tournament,” said Gahadzikwa.
“He has two AFCON tournaments and has played in different tournaments like the CAF Champions league, and he needed to send his country to the World Cup, but it’s unfortunate he has failed.”
During an interview, after Zimbabwe held Algeria to a 2-2 draw during AFCON 2017, former Ghana captain and Bayern Munich legend Sammy Kuffour said Billiat should find a team in Europe.
There were few rumours then about Billiat moving to teams like Quarabag and Galatasaray.
It was Billiat’s dream to play outside Africa in an international tournament.
Former Warriors legend Alois Bunjira feels it’s too early for Billiat to call it quits for the Warriors.
“I dont want him to go. l want him to stay; 31 years is still his prime age so he still has a lot to offer Zimbabwean football,” said Bunjira on a radio programme.
At some time, French legend Zinedine Zidane hung his international boots prior to the 2006 World Cup, but he came back by public demand and rocked the 2006 World Cup campaign.
He was 34 and he was named the player of the tournament.
Christiano Ronaldo, at 37, has continuously delivered for Portugal and on several occasions has saved Manchester United and its gaffer Ole Gunnar Solsjkaer with match-deciding stunners.
Even the pompous Zlatan Ibrahimovic is still going strong, both in speech and on the pitch.
A staunch Warriors and CAPS United fan, Augustine Mupotaringa attributed Billiat’s decision to frustrations due ZIFA’s incompetence.
“All the football drama that is happening in Zimbabwe is because of ZIFA and you should know that Billiat is not the first one to quit the Warriors,” he said.
“Tendai Darikwa is also being frustrated by these ZIFA in-house shenanigans like lack of preparedness when international duty calls; they are sleeping on duty,” he added.
Many players are believed to be ditching Warriors’ call due to ZIFA’s insipid ways.
Players, like Macauley Bonne, have continuously snubbed the Warriors. Bonne once came and played for the Young Warriors (Under-23) and the team received ill-treatment not from the opponents they were facing then, Morroco, but ZIFA.
The past two AFCON editions the Warriors played were also filled with a lot of drama, where some players were reportedly sabotaging ZIFA’s insipid philosophies. In 2019, former Warriors striker Nyasha Mushekwi had to promise his fellow teammates money after playing a game which they were reportedly threatening to boycott.
Be that as it may, Billiat has been soldiering like a true Warrior.
And he should just have waited for January 2022 for a dance in Cameroon.