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The inside story of Tino Kadewere; setbacks and successes

A costly mistake in Sweden could have shattered his confidence. But now a determined Tino Kadewere is fighting PSG for the Ligue 1 title.

Only a handful of Zimbabwe’s young stars have gone on to make their name at top European clubs. Bucking that trend is Ligue 1 hotshot Tino Kadewere.

The forward has scored nine and assisted three times in Ligue 1 this season. He is now fulfilling his European dream, playing for French giants Lyon, proving to be an effective cog in Rudi Garcia’s system for a side looking to topple PSG’s hegemony in France.

Kadewere’s eagerness to succeed and remarkable work-rate made him stand out amongst his peers. So much so that those close to him are unsurprised by his career trajectory. First Time Finish spoke to Norman Taruvinga, a football coach who taught Tino at school and remembers him fondly.

‘He was an amazing talent. Not necessarily the best we had but his attitude, work ethic and desire to achieve made him special,’ Taruvinga told FTF.

‘My colleague Jacob intimated that Tino could play at Barcelona and fellow teachers thought he had gone crazy! He went on to prove it and the guys are embarrassed by their lack of vision! He would volley the ball into the nets, and he was never afraid to try new things and his adventurous character stood out.’

Kadewere’s valiance and hard-working nature saw him move to Harare City at 18 and later to Sweden and France.

Taruvinga looks back on his teenage years as valuable stepping stones in Kadewere’s career.

Lead Singer

Even as a youngster, Kadewere’s confidence and eager personality led him to become a leader amongst his peers. His teacher Norman Taruvinga reminisces over a tour of South Africa. 

‘He would lead the singing in his native language. The older players thought singing in one’s own language on foreign soil was embarrassing!’

‘At training, he would put in maximum effort and concentration. He did this despite the immense potential he had already exhibited. He never stopped giving his all.’

Kadewere played a peripheral role when he moved on to Harare City, having been turned down by reigning champions Dynamos FC. South African scout Eric Bafana was asked by Djurgårdens IF to look for a Zimbabwean forward to suit the plans of sporting director Bosse Andersson.

The original candidate, Elias Monene, sustained an injury. Now it was Tino Kadewere’s time to prove his worth. Rising from the bench in the game, showed great technical ability and his prowess in front of goal left him speechless.

‘The boy had everything, I mean in terms of skill and technique. His strength was undoubted and his confidence was so encouraging,’ Bafana told the Zimbabwean Herald.

Judging by the observations of two key figures in his early development, Kadewere was carving a reputation for himself on the sly.

The European dream

As soon as he had seen him play, Djurgårdens IF director Bosse “Bo” Andersson was intent on bringing the Zimbabwean to Sweden.

‘It was a lucky shot, you know! He came with us and even the team and coaches didn’t believe him. I said I knew he would be fantastic. I fought quite hard. And when he started in the league, he scored in every game,’ Andersson told First Time Finish.

Before his success in Scandinavia, the striker’s career could have turned a different corner. The original plan was for Kadewere to trial with Sochaux in France, a short drive from the Swiss border. Andersson was determined to let Kadewere fulfil his promises with the French outfit but also wanted him to test his mettle in Stockholm.

‘The plan was that Tino went to Sochaux for a trial. We decided to bring him to Stockholm. But I said to him he should trial with Sochaux as they came first. He started crying and saying he didn’t want to leave! He was there for a week and was uncomfortable!’

After his short time in France, Djurgårdens loaned him in from Harare City with an option-to-buy. But the fans were difficult to win over.

‘He wanted to learn, had the right attitude and the right skills.’

Kadewere was yet to win over the Djurgårdare and, against Helsingborgs in September 2015, he made his job a whole lot harder.

‘We were winning 2-1 against Helsingborgs. The coach let Tino get on for the last ten minutes. He made a very big mistake and they equalised. The boy was crying in front of his teammates and he didn’t want to leave the dressing room.’

Unsurprisingly, the fans needed more time to see Kadewere’s qualities unfold but Andersson was keen to allow the Zimbabwean to acclimatise to the Swedish game.

‘Everybody can make mistakes but our fans weren’t convinced. I said to the media that he will be one of our best players in history. I said that in 2015, you can check the newspaper!’

The Zimbabwean scored 14 in 29 in all competitions in his final season and, despite interest from the United States, joined Le Havre in a deal worth £1.8m.

Premier League beckoning

Kadewere impressed under Oswald Tanchot at Le Havre, who initially said he lacked physical strength. His dangerous finishing caught the eye of Ligue 1 power Olympique Lyonnais. A year and a half after his move to France, snapped up the Zimbabwean for £10.8m. 

Kadewere had notched nine goal involvements in his first season with Le Havre and upgraded to a whopping 20 goals and four assists in his second campaign. Overrun with attacking talent, such as Memphis Depay and Moussa Dembélé, Lyon allowed Kadewere to return to Le Havre until the end of the season.

Before his initial Lyon move, the striker was linked with the likes of Aston Villa, Bournemouth and Southampton, who were all on the hunt for forwards. However, he returned to OL and, in 2020-21, began to really make his mark in the top flight.

Lyon first-team

In a press conference, translated into English, Lyon manager Rudi Garcia said: “He is good with his back to goal, his one-touch game is good. He has good movement and is selfless. He is a tall player, good with headers.”

In 23 appearances in 2020-21, Kadewere has scored nine goals and made three assists. xG shows that Kadewere should be on 8.1 goals and so he is defying expectation. He has attempted 47 shots in total this season – the same as Monaco’s Wissam Ben Yedder who has scored 11.

Kadewere also ranks ninth in the league (and third in Lyon’s squad) on goal-creating actions per 90 with 0.65.

In an interview with Lyon’s media team, Kadewere said: “We have played a lot of good matches but it’s only the start of the season and we need to keep working hard in order to finish the league campaign with lots of points to get back into the Champions League.”

“I had a very good season last year with Le Havre and when I got here I realised I had good team-mates who work all the time with me, and who talk to me a lot. That explains why I’ve been able to adapt so quickly. When you play with players like my team-mates then it’s magnificent.”

The future for Tino

Djurgårdens’ Bosse Andersson left his interview with FTF by saying: ‘He could play at Real Madrid or Barcelona. Or the biggest clubs in England. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t.’

‘He always talked about how Real Madrid is his dream.’ 

Having only just turned twenty five, Kadewere still has the potential to become one of the most effective strikers in European and African football.

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