Tadious Manyepo Sports Reporter
DYNAMOS’ teenage sensation Bill Antonio has sneaked out of the country to undergo a month-long trial stint with Belgian top-flight football side KV Mechelen, The Herald can reveal.
The 19-year-old Prince Edward Academy product is making waves in DeMbare colours, driving the Glamour Boys’ bid to reclaim past glory in the local Premiership football.
He was supposed to have left for Belgium at the end of March, but some logistical complications meant he couldn’t proceed with the mission.
And just when it appeared his chances of making the dream trip to the European country had faded away, Antonio finally left the country on Tuesday afternoon.
“Yes, Bill (Antonio) has finally gone for trials in Belgium. He will have a month with KV Mechelen who will be assessing him. It has been in the pipeline for a long time now and the player left on Tuesday and was expected to arrived today (yesterday),” said a close source at Dynamos who asked not to be named.
The winger was conspicuous by his absence at the team’s training session yesterday and it emerged the speedster was already in Belgium where he is scheduled to undergo a four-week assessment, with reports suggesting the club is literally ready to sign the footballer.
The Wouter Vrancken’s side have close links with the Glamour Boys and have in previous instances made it clear they would be supporting Dynamos in every way possible.
DeMbare coach Tonderai Ndiraya is a beneficiary of the close links between the two teams, having spent over a month attached to the Belgian club where he got access to modern coaching material two years ago.
DeMbare also received an assortment of equipment in 2020 to help the technical team implement a scientific approach to their methods from the same team.
And Antonio could just break into European football as early as this August if he impresses, further strengthening the already fruitful relations between the Harare giants and the Antwerp-based club.
If the Prince Edward School graduate makes it, he will become the first signing by KV Mechelen from Dynamos since the beginning of their close ties three years ago.
Antonio’s agent Pat Jefferson was not reachable for comment yesterday.
But she told The Herald in March that Antonio was initially supposed to go to Belgium in 2019 and the dates kept on changing as the teenager was supposed to get more game-time at Dynamos before he could fly to the European country.
“Bill was (actually) supposed to have gone (to Belgium) in 2019, then last year. (But) we decided to let him have more games (and game-time) and then look at it later,” said Jefferson.
Antonio is largely enjoying his debut season with Dynamos where he has scored three goals and weighed in with as many assists.
He has been trying to get himself up again after missing two games against Herentals and CAPS United following his expulsion in the ill-fated tie against Highlanders in match-day 15.
The youngster was red-carded for a crude challenge on Bosso’s Andrew Mbeba forcing a 15-minute stoppage to the match which would be abandoned in added-time following crowd trouble.
And he has been battling since making the starting line-up in match-day 18 against Yadah which Dynamos lost 1-0 at the National Sports Stadium.
Somehow each time the track athlete-cum-footballer has not come to the party, DeMbare have failed to sparkle, including in their past four games where they have failed to find the back of the net.
And Ndiraya will have to identify someone in his squad to replace Antonio at least for the coming six weeks.
DeMbare head to Bulawayo for a date against Chicken Inn at Barbourfields on Saturday in their next Castle Lager Premier Soccer League tie.
Ndiraya will have to pick between Issa Sadiki and Tanaka Chidhobha who have played that role in the past as he begins another spell without Antonio.
Since making his top-flight bow as an 18-year-old schoolboy last year, Antonio has been a revelation and he is being touted as the next big thing to happen at the country’s biggest football institution.
After featuring in just eight games for Dynamos, Antonio had distinguished himself as someone who was good enough and former Warriors coach, Norman Mapeza, rewarded him with a call into the national team in a 2022 World Cup qualifier against neighbours South Africa in November last year.
Antonio did not start in that match which Zimbabwe lost 0-1 at the FNB Stadium but made a huge impression after coming on for Khama Billiat in the second half.
He even made the provisional squad for the African Cup of Nations held in Cameroon between January and February this year although he was dropped from the final squad which did duty at the continental football showcase.