The Sunday Mail
AS had been expected, his schedule has been tight given that he has to do everything possible and meet everyone who matters within a month before he returns to his base in France.
Olympic Lyon star Tino Kadewere also has to pay attention to a project that is close to his heart, and one that he feels will appease his late father’s spirit — if it bears fruit.
The 25-year-old striker is back home after an eventful debut season in the French Ligue 1, during which he lost his brother Prince, made history in the Derby Rhone-Alpes and ended on a low after picking up a sports hernia injury.
He spent the better part of Thursday at Hellenic Sports Club in Harare watching Highfield Academy players going through their paces.
The Kadewere Foundation is the chief sponsor of Highfield Academy, a project that was started by his late father, Onias.
Herentals, who are owned by football enthusiast and the Premier Soccer League’s oldest player Innocent Benza (49), were also practicing at the same venue.
Tino and Benza accordingly exchanged pleasantries in mutual respect.
“Ah, is that you Tino, when did you come back? It’s good to see you back in the country after a long time, hey. You are doing good for the country my boy and keep supporting this project (Highfield Academy),” Benza told Kadewere.
The Warriors star would have been expected to be part of the World Cup qualifiers this weekend had the matches not been postponed to September.
Zimbabwe, who are in Group G alongside Ghana, Ethiopia and South Africa, would have been facing rivals Bafana Bafana.
He, however, would have missed the showdown due to injury.
“Perhaps this is a blessing in disguise for me. I am happy that the injury has come at a time when the World Cup games have also been postponed,” Kadewere told The Sunday Mail Sport.
“There is consensus amongst Zimbabwe’s national team players that South Africa are the real enemy in the group, given the perennial rivalry between the two countries.
“I am happy we will be playing some of the big teams in Africa, and getting to eliminate them would be good.
“It is going to be hard, so we have to prepare now. Hopefully, I will be fully fit and ready by then.
“We have a good squad and if we always keep together, we can achieve big.”
Kadewere was operated a fortnight ago and the stitches were removed on Wednesday.
“I have been battling against this injury since February. It has been affecting my game for a long time and the club was trying to make all the necessary things to make me feel better, but it was difficult. I tried to play but it was not easy for me, up until I couldn’t run in the last few games of the season.
“The club then decided I get operated on. It’s two weeks now since the operation and yesterday (Wednesday) I removed the stiches, and I am feeling much better now.
“I am going to start some workouts in a few days’ time.”
The injury forced the striker out of Lyon’s last two league matches of the season, and it was a double blow for the Zimbabwean as the French giants also missed out on a Champions League spot.
Olympic Lyon finished fourth behind French Ligue 1 champions Lille, PSG and Monaco.
They will play in the less glamorous Europa League.
“I am not happy because my goal was to play in the Champions League. When I first came here, I didn’t put any targets for goals or assists, the ultimate focus was on my team qualifying for Europe’s elite competition.”
He scored 10 goals in 33 appearances and provided three assists in a remarkable debut in the French top-flight.
That feat meant he was Lyon’s third top-scorer behind Memphis Depay (20) and Karl Toko Ekambi (14).
His tally was better than PSG’s superstar Neymar, who scored nine league goals for the former champions.
“Most people didn’t think I was going to get a chance to play when I went to Lyon, but I am happy I managed to achieve those statistics.
“It’s something that I didn’t think would happen, but with the work I put in there and also the gift from God, everything came into place. I am really happy and I am very proud of myself.”
Kadewere etched his name in French football folklore when he scored back-to-back braces in the derby against Saint-Etienne.
Known as the Derby Rhone-Alpes, Lyon versus Etienne is one of the fiercest derbies in French Ligue 1.
He became the first Lyon player to come off the bench and score twice in this derby when Les Gones beat Etienne 2-1 on November 8, 2020.
He bagged another brace in the reverse fixture in a 5-0 win on January 24.
“It was so amazing, but I credit it all to God.”
He also credits his glittering season to teammate and captain Depay, who sadly is leaving the club amid reports he is on the verge of signing for Barcelona.
“To be honest, Memphis was really close to me and he was like a brother to me. We sit next to each other in the dressing room and since the day I arrived, he was there for me.
“The last time I lost my brother, he was very supportive, doing a lot of things for me.
“It’s going to be sad that he is leaving; I wish he will do well at his next club and hoping to meet up again in the near future.”
Rudi Garcia, the coach who signed Kadewere, has also left Lyon.
He has been replaced by Peter Bosz, who coincidentally also coached Marvelous Nakamba when he was still with Dutch side Vitesse.
And Kadewere has been consulting his Warriors teammate.
The pair is likely to meet in Harare this week.
“New coach or old coach, for me I don’t think it will change anything. I am just in Lyon to do my job and I will do my job as usual, and the coach will decide if I am going to play or not.
“I spoke to the new manager, he is a good guy, he can help me progress in my career. I am also going to consult Marve (Nakamba) when we meet next week (this week).”
There was, however, no mistaking the significance he attaches to the Highfield Academy project.
“This project is really important to us considering that it was my late father who introduced this, so we wouldn’t want to let him down.
“We want everyone to know that there is Highfield Academy. We want everyone to know that it’s a team from the Kadewere family.
“We want everyone to know that we are doing something for the community,” he said.
The academy are currently registered in the ZIFA Harare Province Division Two League, but there are plans to rope in junior players from Under-13 level.
Premiership outfit Harare City are also close to Kadewere’s heart.
He played for them before his first move to Europe in 2015 when he signed for Swedish top-flight outfit Djurgarden.
He watched the Harare side draw 0-0 with Yadah Stars in a Chibuku Super Cup match at the National Sports Stadium on Wednesday.
“It was a great feeling, to be honest.
“I enjoyed the way they played and I was even talking to my brother (Prosper) that you can see that Harare City are onto something good.
“Their passing was neat, they looked hungry for a win. You could see that these people are doing well even in training because normally what you do in training is what you do during the game.”
Kadewere is convinced Zimbabwe has talent and intends to market the country in Europe.
He was appointed Zimbabwe Tourism Ambassador in January but the formalities are yet to be completed.
“We were told about the appointment but we haven’t received the formal appointment,” said Tino’s brother, Prosper, who handles the player’s affairs locally.
But that hasn’t stopped Tino from marketing brand Zimbabwe.
“Most of my teammates actually didn’t know Zimbabwe. When I told them I am from Zimbabwe, they were like, oh, there is a country called Zimbabwe, we didn’t know about it.
“Most of them really want to come to Zimbabwe and get to see our beautiful country. I am always telling them about the beauty of our country.”
The Lyon striker will return to France for pre-season, which begins on July 1, and for now he has to make the most of the little time he has before the season begins.
“To be honest, when I am back home everything is good for me. I forget everything and I focus on being with my family and friends.
“This is the most important part of my life, being able to be with my family. Being here with my family motivates me and when I go back to France, I am going back knowing that my family is okay and safe.”
The influence his mother, Mavis, has on his life is also apparent.
“When I am back in Zimbabwe, I don’t go anywhere without her; I am just with her.
“She has been helpful; very supportive. She has not let me down and I have never let her down.”