Senior Sports Reporter
FRANCE-BASED Zimbabwe international football star Tino Kadewere says he was not surprised by his meteoric rise in Europe this year.
The Warriors forward, who is back home for a deserved Christmas holiday, has been reflecting on a good year after making an explosive start in his debut season in the French Ligue 1.
The manner with which he had to deal with a family tragedy and still come out with his best form has astounded many people in the football circles.
The lanky forward yesterday said that what has been unfolding in his career at Olympique Lyon is a result of hours of hard work which he has put into his game.
“I think it did not really surprise me because I have always worked for this and I give all that I can in everything that I do,” he said.
“I have managed to adapt quickly and think it is mostly because of the people that are around me and also my teammates. They really helped me a lot. The target is to be able to play the Champions League and to keep on progressing.”
Kadewere has been in formidable scoring form which has seen him bag seven league goals and six assists from 16 appearances this season.
The 24-year-old striker made a lucrative US$16,5 million switch from second-tier side Le Havre where he had acquitted himself well by scooping the French Ligue 2 Golden Boot with 20 goals from 24 outings.
The former Harare City striker had arrived on the French shores virtually unknown the previous season for a paltry US$2,5 million fee from Swedish side, Djurgardens IF.
But this has not been a particularly good year for him despite his exploits on the pitch. It was the first time he had to spend Christmas without his brother and close friend, Prince, who died four months ago.
The Christmas holiday with his family, however, remains a special occasion for him.
“The year 2020 was both good and bad for me but I will always try to take positives on everything that I come along with. So, yeah I think it’s a good one.
“The Xmas (period) has been very good and it’s always good to be home because I always have to be close to the family,” Kadewere said.
At Lyon, the Warriors forward has struck it rich in one of Europe’s most prolific attacking trio at the moment which includes Cameroonian Carl Toko-Ekambi and their Dutch skipper, Memphis Depay, who is a target of European giants Barcelona and Juventus.
The Kadewere, Toko-Ekambo and Depay attacking trio has plundered 24 goals for Lyon this season, which makes them the best in Europe’s top football leagues.
Kadewere yesterday told The Herald that he has focused on helping Lyon clinch a Champions League football spot for next season. He also believes the Zimbabwe football team has the capacity to surprise many in 2021 in their quest to qualify for the African Cup of Nations tournament and the 2022 World Cup finals.
Zimbabwe are currently in second place in the AFCON qualifiers behind Algeria in Group H. They still have matches against Botswana and Zambia in March next year to seal their fate while the World Cup qualifiers get underway later in the year.
“I think looking at our squad we have a big opportunity to surprise many countries on this one and be able to get the results we want and qualify.”
The Warriors were drawn to play South Africa, Ghana and Ethiopia in the World Cup qualifiers.
Kadewere also has belief in Warriors’ expatriate coach Zdravko Logarusic.
“Loga is a very good guy and great mentor. I worked with him for less than two weeks and in those two weeks I was really impressed and happy to have worked with him.”
With Warriors stars Khama Billiat and Knowledge Musona now in the twilight of their careers, Kadewere is tipped to be one of the players to take over as the next Golden Boy for this Zimbabwe team.
“I think for now we focus on what we have as of now and when it’s time to have a new group of guys again then we will see,” he said.
Kadewere urged the local band of Warriors for the CHAN tournament to stay strong after nine players and five officials tested positive for the coronavirus this week during a training camp for the tournament that begins in Cameroon in a few weeks time.
“I think these guys need to stay focused and follow all the health guidelines until the pandemic goes away because it’s not easy for everyone in the whole world. But we also need to be careful and make sure they feel in good shape for the tournament.”
Kadewere is happy to be back home for the Christmas break and will return to France ahead of Lyon’s first league game of the year scheduled for next Wednesday.
The Warriors forward also got time to visit the work being done by his Kadewere Foundation which has been assisting the vulnerable people in Highfield to cope with life during the difficult period of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The foundation has been mobilising financial support and groceries for the disadvantaged and the elderly in the community and have also engaged the vulnerable children, assisting them to become self-reliant and responsible citizens.
“I am so proud and happy that my brothers are doing very well and making sure things go on very smoothly so we are glad to be doing this and we hope to keep on going,” he said.
The Kadewere Foundation and Grow a Tree Foundation last month entered into a partnership to promote growing of trees in different communities around the country.
The two parties signed a MOU at Tsungayi Primary School in Highfield.
The Kadewere Foundation is fronted in Harare by one of Tino’s brothers, Pardon, who has of late been working tirelessly to uplift the spirits of the underprivileged people in Highfield and the surrounding areas through partnerships with several key stakeholders in the project.