HARARE - THE opening weekend of the South African 2018/19 football season was supposed to have been dominated by a stunning overhead kick goal scored by Zimbabwean striker Knox Mutizwa but, instead, it will be remembered for the spectacular fallout triggered by coach Pitso Mosimane’s comments mocking Khama Billiat.
Mutizwa produced an unforgettable moment of pure genius as he scored Golden Arrows’ first goal in their 2-0 win over Maritzburg United in the KwaZulu Natal Derby at the Harry Gwala Stadium on Sunday.
The bicycle kick, struck with the same precision that forced the Juventus Stadium in Turin to rise in appreciation after Portuguese superstar scored a similar goal in a UEFA Champions League match for Real Madrid against the Old Lady of Italian football in April this year, has been receiving rave reviews on both sides of the Limpopo River.
Some pundits have already suggested that Mutizwa’s strike is an early contender for the Goal of the Season while some have even gone further to suggest that it should be included in the package of goals for the Puskas award, which is given annually by FIFA, for the outstanding goal of the year.
Controlling the ball on his chest, Mutizwa gave it enough lift to float into an area where he could try his outrageous overhead kick, with the diminutive forward propelling himself into the air to connect the ball with his right and powering it into the nets even while he still had his back to goal.
But Mutizwa’s moment of magic has been overshadowed by comments made Mamelodi Sundowns coach Mosimane, whose stock rose significantly when he was named the Coach of the Year in Africa after leading his club to their first Champions League success story, after an explosive match between the Brazilians and Kaizer Chiefs in Pretoria on Saturday.
Mosimane was having his routine post-match television comments when he asked SuperSport TV sports anchor Robert Marawa who had been handed the man-of-the-match award.
When told the award had gone to Billiat, a former Sundowns player who is now at Kaizer Chiefs after running out his contract at the league champions in June this year, Mosimane appeared shocked, live on television, and asked who was in charge of deciding the players who would be honoured with such awards.
The coach insinuated that the recipients of the awards were chosen by text messages from fans, which meant that a Chiefs player stood a better chance of winning the award because the club has the biggest number of fans, to which Marawa told him that the choice was made by a panel of journalists.
A visibly shocked Mosimane further questioned Marawa what Billiat, featuring in his first competitive match for his new club Chiefs, had done all afternoon to deserve the award, triggering a storm that has been battering South African football since those comments were passed by the coach.
“It was tight... a difficult game. Chiefs are a good team, but I think Thapelo (Morena) could've scored and (Themba) Zwane on one-on-one there,” Mosimane told SuperSport TV after the match.
“Can I ask who chooses the man of the match – is it the SMSes like in the Shell Helix Cup? What did he (Billiat) do?’’
Ironically, Billiat was also named man-of-the-match in the pre-season Shell Helix Cup despite Chiefs going down 1-2 to Sundowns at the FNB Stadium in Soweto.
‘’Khosi for life,’’ Billiat said in a video posted on social media. ‘’Thank you very much, you guys are wonderful, we know we disappointed you today but we are looking forward to the future.’’
The video had been viewed 56 700 times early this week and had been retweeted 881 times while also being loved 5 200 times.
Chiefs’ fans have been livid that Mosimane appears to be driven by hatred that could have been sparked by Billiat’s decision to dump Sundowns, a club he helped become champions of Africa, and find a new home at Chiefs.
And the issue has divided South African football along club lines.
‘’Congratulations to Absa Man of the Match: @iamkhamabilliat #HailTheChief #Makhosi4Life #AbasPrem,’’ tweeted Chiefs after that game with a picture of Billiat holding his man-of-the-match award.
Billiat also retweeted that tweet following the 1-1 draw against Sundowns at Loftus Versfeld Stadium last Saturday and it has generated a lot of comment, with most of the focus centred on the row sparked by Mosimane’s comments.
Here are some of the comments that this roar has generated:
‘’This was just to spite Downs, he (Khama) was not that good on the day... a game where Rama scored and defended well but didn't get a MOTM (man of the match) award. These people don't understand how good you have to be as a defender to intercept a ball that high up and slot the ball in so beautifully.’’
‘’Well, we're happy, what others say or think is none of our business... Congratulations to @iamkhamabilliat.’’
‘’Exactly, he is the man of the match (whether) they like it or not.’’
‘’He did keep the Sundowns defenders very busy and his pressing was on point, he denied them the comfort of inter- change passing and building from the back, even Pitso knows it very well.’’
‘’Let’s make it clear, Khama was playing in the game am I right? So, why hate on this player? He was chosen by officials who were watching a match and not a voting contest. Pitso, what’s up with this coach?? Really? He’s been personal ever since I knew him and that shows weakness in his leadership. This guy needs to be educated, not to take things personal. What kind of leadership is this?’’
‘’If you don’t know the criteria used to select men of the matches, just remain quiet, Khama played well, I don’t think the decision was biased and regarding the person who complained, it came to my senses that he had a beef with @iamkhamabilliat, why can't he move on and leave our Billiat alone?’’
‘’Despite the result, this man showed his worth. Totally convinced he is going to win us silverware this season.’’
‘’He doesn't deserve to be man-of-the-match....he was unproductive I think they just awarded him because he is Billiat....Rama deserve the tittle.’’
‘’Someone must tell Pitso to stop behaving like a child, great coaches don’t behave like him, why is he so jealous about Khama Billiat being named man of the match?’’