Blow as Billiat drops out

Khama Billiat making his way past Zimamoto Suleiman Said Juma at the NMB Stadium.
Khama Billiat making his way past Zimamoto Suleiman Said Juma at the NMB Stadium.
Image: Eugene Coetzee

In a major blow for Kaizer Chiefs, Khama Billiat will miss the crucial Caf Confederation Cup clash against Elgeco Plus FC on Saturday after he was ruled out with a muscle injury on Wednesday.

Chiefs travel to Madagascar on Friday and club spokesperson Vina Maphosa confirmed that the influential player would definitely not make an appearance at the Stade d’Analamanga.

Billiat‚ who has been in brilliant form for Amakhosi this season‚ suffered the injury during their 3-0 win over Elgeco Plus in the first leg at the Moses Mabhida Stadium in Durban last weekend.

Other injured players are Ramahlwe Mphahlele (knee)‚ Eric Mathoho (ankle)‚ Ryan Moon (eye) and Philani Zulu (face fracture).

But coach Ernst Middendorp has some good news as defender Mario Booysen has been cleared to travel to the Indian Ocean Island as Chiefs continue their quest for a place in the group stages.

Dumisani Zuma is one of the options that Middendorp could turn to when he attempts to fill the huge void created by Billiat’s absence.

Zuma could join the attacking department that includes Andriamirado “Dax” Andrianarimanana and Lebogang Manyama, with Willard Katsande covering for them as the destroyer.

Middendorp has made it clear that they want to win this continental encounter, which starts at 1.30pm SA time.

Kaizer Chiefs’ trip to Madagascar is the second time they are heading to the giant island but it should have been three had it not been for political violence and missed plane flights from Johannesburg.

In 2002‚ when Chiefs were beginning the defence of the African Cup Winners’ Cup crown they had won just months before‚ they refused to travel to Madagascar because of concerns over the safety of their players.

Chiefs had won the first leg of the first round tie against USM Transfoot 4-0 at home but then did not travel to Madagascar for the return match.

This earned them disqualification and then a two-year ban from the Confederation of African Football.

Chiefs blamed their inability to get a flight to take their team to Madagascar for the failure to honour the fixture there. But they also did not want to go there because of the rioting that followed disputed presidential elections.

The tenuous political situation meant a number of flights to the island were cancelled as airlines worried about dwindling jet fuel supplies and the possibility of being stranded in Madagascar.

Chiefs blamed the South African Football Association for not trying hard enough to petition Caf for a postponement of their match or a move to a neutral venue.

Kaizer Motaung said at the time that if Safa’s then general secretary, Albert Mokoena, “had been doing his job” Chiefs would not have been banned.

But Chiefs were secretly rather pleased to be rid of participation because they did not fancy all the costs that came with the trophy they won.

The previous year‚ when they had won the Cup Winners’ Cup‚ they racked up a massive travel bill playing across the continent and got nothing in return – it was only in 2004 that prize money started to be offered by Caf to participating teams.

Chiefs eventually went to Madagascar in 2005 when the ban was lifted and played in the African Champions League.

They beat USJF Ravinala 1-0 away and went on to win their second-round tie 5-1 on aggregate before controversially losing in the next round to Esperance of Tunisia.

Chiefs are the only South African club who have been banned by Caf and it has happened twice.

Straight after the defeat to Esperance‚ which included some diabolical refereeing decisions which later led to suspension of the Egyptian official in charge‚ Chiefs were supposed to drop down to play in the African Confederation Cup but after the bitter taste of the cheating in Tunisia they refused to take part.

So they received another ban – this time for three years, which meant that their league triumph in the 2004/05 season did not lead to another campaign in the Champions League.

Chiefs only returned to African club competition in 2014 after almost a decade out. -TimesLIVE