Billiat joins camp

HARARE - Mamelodi Sundowns and Warriors star midfielder Khama Billiat has finally started training with the rest of the national team after a tumultuous week in which he has made headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Billiat, who has been in the country since the Absa Premiership went on Christmas break, was yet to join camp after claiming his club had written to Zifa to give him time off training and recharge his batteries after a gruelling season.

However, Billiat who helped his South African side to continental glory sent social media into overdrive after pictures emerged of him looking soused at a Harare joint and kissing a female companion in the wee hours of last Friday.

Warriors coach Kalisto Pasuwa, however, has played down the incident although it is believed he has read the riot act to Billiat after the “rogue” star’s behaviour reportedly caused some disturbances in the camp.

Belgium-based forward Knowledge Musona, who also arrived in the country last Thursday, is the only player so far yet to join camp but has been excused to sort out some personal issues.

Pasuwa’s charges resumed training yesterday ahead of the 2017 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) tournament that kicks off in Gabon in a fortnight — having been given a day off to celebrate New Year with their families.

Team manager Sharif Mussa confirmed Billiat is back to serious business while Musona is expected to be with the squad any moment from today.

“Musona is also supposed to start training any time from today,” Mussa said.

However, Billiat who is vying for the Africa Player of the Year — based in Africa award together with Mamelodi Sundowns teammate Dennis Onyango — might also break ranks with his national teammates this week if Pasuwa decides to grant him leave to attend Glo Caf’s Thursday banquet in Abuja, Nigeria.

TP Mazembe’s Zambian midfielder Rainford Kalaba is the third nominee up for the award after inspiring the Democratic Republic of Congo side to the African Confederation Cup title.

Pasuwa is also expected to announce his travelling 23-man squad this week with both Musona and Billiat tipped to make it into the team.

The Aces Youth Academy alumni — Musona and Billiat — were the Warriors’ top goal scorers during the qualifiers — hitting the back of the net three times each.

In Gabon, the Warriors are in tough Group B alongside continental powerhouses Algeria, Senegal and Tunisia with the matches being staged at the Stade de Franceville in Franceville.

It’s one of the toughest groups of the tournament and Pasuwa is well aware of the daunting mission that awaits him in Gabon.

Warriors’ opponents in their first group game Algeria have already announced their final 23-man squad that includes English Premier Champions Leicester City duo of Riyad Mahrez and Islam Slimani and Dinamo Zagreb’s Hillal El Arabi Soudani, the top scorer in the qualifiers with seven goals in six matches.

However, there was no place for West Ham midfielder Sofiane Feghouli and defender Carl Medjani. Feghouli has scored 11 goals in 42 appearances for Algeria including a goal in the 2014 World Cup in Brazil which helped his country advance to the last 16.

The 27-year-old, a reported target by French Ligue One side Marseille, has however, played a peripheral role for West Ham since his arrival in England last summer. Medjani, who has 54 caps and plays in Spain for Leganes, is absent for the first time since the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Senegal have also named their final 23-man squad which is dominated by five England-based players. The Teranga Lions’ attack is expected to be led by Liverpool’s Sadio Mane and Mame Biram Diouf of Stoke City.

And their midfield could be filled by three more from EPL players in skipper Cheikhou Kouyate of West Ham, Newcastle’s Mohamed Diame and Everton’s Idrissa Gana Gueye.

Tunisia, are however, yet to name their travelling squad but named their provisional squad two weeks ago and are holding a training camp in Catalonia, Spain where they have already taken part in two friendly matches as they intensify preparations for Gabon.

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