Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
FREDERIC KANOUTE, the 2007 African Footballer of the Year, sneaked into the country yesterday where he is expected to grace a youth football festival at Prince Edward School this weekend.
though one of the organisers of the event, Tawanda Musonza, tried to keep the visit under wraps, the Herald on Saturday can reveal that the former Sevilla striker flew into Harare in the early hours of yesterday.
ZIFA said they were not aware of the visit by one of the iconic figures of the African game with their spokesperson, Xolisani Gwesela, confirming they had not been alerted to the visit.
“Kanoute, what is the purpose of his visit? ZIFA is not aware of such a visit,” said Gwesela.
But, this publication has gathered that eight Under15 football academies will today battle it out in what has been named the Frederic Kanoute Cup at Prince Edward.
Avondale Athletic then take on Herentals youth club at Alexander Sports Club tomorrow in the same competition.
Musonza yesterday promised to call later in the day, for further details, before flip-flopping on the nature of the deal they had entered with Kanoute.
Aces Youth Soccer Academy lead the Under-15 teams which will battle it out for honours at Prince Edward this afternoon where Kanoute, through the Kanoute Foundation, is expected to dish out prizes for winners.
Red Cross, Power 11, Family, Zengeza Busters, Galaxy, Prince Edward and BN Academies are the other academies scheduled to take part in the high-profile jamboree.
Other academies dotted around the city, including the Avenues Sports Stars (ASSFA), have been invited to attend.
“Yes, I am the one who is handling the affairs but Kanoute is not coming yet,” said Musonza.
Kanoute announced on his official Twitter handle that he was on his way to Zimbabwe over a fortnight ago.
“Looking forward to my first visit to #Zimbabwe in February 2020,” he wrote on January 23.
The France-born former Lyon, Sevilla and Tottenham Hotspur star has a penchant for football development in Africa having been working with various academies across the continent.
He played a key role in the transfer of Zambian players, Enock Mwepu and Patson Daka to Austrian giants Red Bull Salzburg last year, through his 12-man sports management agency.
Kanoute works closely with Lee Kawanu, the owner of the pair’s former club in Zambia, Kafue Celtics.
The 42-year-old former Mali international was last year quoted by BBC Sport challenging African footballers to be principled as talent was not enough to propel them to greatness.
“Keep working. Talent is not enough. You need to work hard, have an ethic of working hard and discipline,’’ said Kanoute. ‘‘You have to be very strong mentally, as well. We shouldn’t forget, football is not only about playing around with the ball. There is a technical aspect. There is a tactical aspect. There is a physical aspect. There is a mental aspect.” Kanoute became the First player born outside the continent to win the African Footballer of the Year when he bagged the prestigious accolade in 2007.