HARARE – Warriors legend Peter Ndlovu insists he is a loyal Zimbabwean and would never block Khama Billiat from playing for the national team.
The Mamelodi Sundowns team manager was speaking in Harare yesterday afternoon after arriving from Pretoria with Billiat, who proceeded to be assessed by the Warriors medical team.
Even the assessment by the Warriors medical team yesterday also confirmed that the winger was indeed injured and was in no state to play.
Ndlovu said Billiat is struggling to even walk with an ankle injury suffered against Maritzburg, five weeks ago.
At the moment, the winger has been working with a biokineticist in the gym back at Choorlkop and once he is able to move freely without any pain that is when he will start working with the fitness trainer to regain full match fitness.
“The first thing that I wanted to make sure is that Khama is here. A lot of people were saying that he’s not coming. As you know, Khama is injured; I’ve brought with me his medical records,” Ndlovu, who is the Warriors’ most capped player with 100 games under his belt for the national team, said.
“He has not been playing for almost five weeks. During those five weeks, Khama has not been training, he’s not even 20 percent fit.
“As a Zimbabwean first, why would I not want Khama to come and perform for the country? I want Zimbabwe to win; I want Khama to win things so why would I stop him from coming?
“For me, Khama is Zimbabwean first; I’m Zimbabwean first. We both belong to Zimbabwe and we will also honour a call-up.”
Ndlovu, who holds the record of most goals for the Warriors at 38, accused the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) of lacking professionalism and team manager Wellington Mpandare of failing to handle the situation in a cordial manner.
“It’s a norm that when a player is called up, we request for a travelling arrangement so that we know and we arrange or facilitate that he is back with the club as soon as possible,” Ndlovu said.
“Zifa did not send Khama’s travel itinerary . . . that’s the reality and the true story. They did not send those travel arrangements to us, they sent it to the player.
“We had acknowledged the call-up but we needed the travelling itinerary and at the same time, we sent them the medical report outlining that Khama is injured.
“I personally spoke to the manager (Mpandare) to tell him, ‘You have sent Khama a ticket, we do not know about it. You should be sending the ticket to the club’.
“He then rectified the ticket and finally sent it to the club but there was another mistake because there was no return date. So we asked him that we wanted to know when Khama is coming back. For us, Khama was coming for a (medical) assessment and coming back because he was injured.”
Ndlovu added: “I want to put it on record that my coach, Pitso Mosimane was on a teleconference with myself, the team manager Wellington and the coach Norman (Mapeza), trying to resolve this situation but it turned sour.
“Pitso humbled himself in trying to explain the situation but the tone used by Wellington was not proper. No doubt, he’s my brother but I want to mention that he should not take things personal.
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“As much as we humbled ourselves in front of coach Norman, he should have talked to us in a friendly tone.
“For him to give us an ultimatum and say, ‘After we have finished talking here, is Khama coming or not?’, that’s not a good tone in a professional discussion; it’s not good.”
The former Coventry and Birmingham winger said he had been deeply hurt by the allegations that he had been blocking Billiat from playing for the Warriors.
“I do not keep grudges. Those people who were saying those things were quoted but what I only want is the truth to be told,” he said.
“It was said that we (Sundowns) released Anthony Laffor but he’s injured. Laffor is the Liberian skipper, he should have been here. Hlompo Kekana pulled out of the Bafana squad because he’s injured.
“It’ not like that we want to keep players, they are injured and it’s simple like that but I want to make sure that those people don’t question my loyalty.
“I will die for this country as far as football is concerned. My family is not very happy with what has been said but look we still need each other.
“I’m still gonna work for Zimbabwe one way or the other whether people like it or not; I’ll still be involved and I’m gonna do my best.
“I hope people understand. I have brought Khama here and there is nothing to hide. People should not rely on hearsay but facts only.”
Mpandare denied that he had not been forthcoming and rude or failed to follow proper procedure when handling the Billiat matter with the Sundowns.
“We complied with all their requests that they had asked for. The first thing we sent an invite to Mamelodi Sundowns,” he said.
“All the time we were talking to Belinda, who handles all the communications that we sent to Sundowns. It is only after we sent the ticket that’s when Ndlovu came into the picture.
“Ndlovu said we should send the ticket to the club directly and not to the player. I issued a second ticket which meant Khama should have arrived last Sunday.
“We were surprised when Khama said he was not coming and we should speak to Ndlovu. I sent him at least three messages but he did not respond. He only responded when the articles began to run in the press.”
On the issue of the teleconference, Mpandare said: “The same Belinda we were dealing with in the first place was part of that teleconference and she was beginning to misrepresent facts. That’s when I decided to go straight to the point.
“The conversation had been dragging for over an hour and there was no breakthrough and that’s when I went straight to the point. As Zifa, we had issued three tickets already and if Sundowns didn’t want Khama to come they should have just told us that in the first place.”