The Sunday Mail
THERE are some who think Tino Kadewere was just lucky to earn a move to Europe.
They doubt his talent and pedigree to compete in one of the world’s top leagues.
Others see him as a big flop on the European stage.
Kadewere, who celebrated his 27th birthday 10 days ago, has always divided opinion among fans and pundits, thanks to his inconsistent stint in France with Lyon.
It also did not help that his spell at the club was blighted by injuries.
The Zimbabwean striker scored 11 goals in 48 appearances for Lyon before he was loaned out to Spanish La Liga side Real Mallorca on August 29, 2022.
He is yet to find his feet in La Liga, where he made a historic debut as a late substitute, when Real Mallorca lost 0-2 to Getafe at the Coliseum Alfonso Perez a fortnight ago.
He came on for Korean striker Kang-In Lee in the 84th minute and become the first Zimbabwean to feature in La Liga.
He, however, could not help Mallorca avoid defeat.
His participation was a belated birthday present for Kadewere, who had turned 27 two days earlier, on January 5.
He added another 14 minutes to his La Liga journey last weekend, when his side edged Real Valladolid 1-0 at home.
The Zimbabwean was expected to play some role late last night when Real Mallorca travelled to Osasuna.
As he eases into La Liga, which is rated the third top league in the world by Global Football Rankings, Kadewere has not only received some praise from his new coach, but from a Zimbabwean sports personality with an appreciation of the Spanish top-flight league.
Real Betis Academy Zimbabwe chairperson Gerald Sibanda, who is linked with Spanish side Real Betis, is convinced there is something special about Kadewere.
Sibanda was in Spain in December, when Real Betis Academy embarked on a 10-day educational tour.
He watched Real Betis play Manchester United, Inter Milan and Atalanta in friendly matches and got an appreciation of the intensity and level of football in Europe’s top leagues.
“Sometimes lack of information, lack of exposure or lack of appreciation causes us to think that a player is lucky to play in Europe,” Sibanda told The Sunday Mail Sport.
“To be the big player that he is, the great Cristiano Ronaldo achieved most of his accolades at Real Madrid in La Liga.
“For Lionel Messi to be where he is, his greatest accolades were achieved at FC Barcelona in La Liga.
“One of the greatest football coaches in the world is Pep Guardiola, and he also achieved great things in La Liga.
“I am giving examples of great names that have emerged from La Liga – you talk of Zinedine Zidane, Ronaldinho, Ronaldo, Rivaldo, David Beckham and Roberto Carlos. They all played in this league.
“So, you can’t then undermine a player who plays on the same stage where these great footballers have also been measured or participated.
“We need to respect and learn from players like Kadewere who are there . . . It is not easy to play at that stage.”
Sibanda – a former Zimbabwe national rugby team star – is now into junior football development.
He has cultivated strong links with Real Betis through his local academy, Real Betis Academy Zimbabwe.
It is now an official branch of the La Liga team in Africa.
“Of course, commercially, the English Premier League is great, and, as Zimbabwe, we have a greater affiliation with the Premier League, but if you move into South America and other countries, La Liga is big,” he said.
“It has great history, so we just need to appreciate, learn and emulate.
“We must then teach our young athletes to emulate what Kadewere is doing.”
The Highfield-bred striker seems to have already won the heart of his new coach at Mallorca, Javier Aguirre.
The 63-year-old Mexican has vast experience in Spain, having overseen more than 400 La Liga matches.
He previously had stints with Osasuna, Atletico Madrid, Real Zaragoza, Espanyol and Leganes.
He was appointed at Mallorca in March 2022.
The former midfielder also coached Mexico twice before stints with the Japan and Egypt national teams.
After Kadewere’s debut match in La Liga on January 7, in which he featured for just six minutes, Aguirre said: “He is a boy with very good character and today we put him in a 4-4-2, in a position that does not correspond to him because he is a striker or a playmaker.
“But, the little he did I think was in line with the game, neither for better nor for worse.”
The Mexican gaffer then handed Kadewere his first start in a competitive match when Real Mallorca beat Pontevedra 2-0 in a Copa del Rey match on January 4.
Bit by bit, the Zimbabwean keeps charming his Mexican mentor.