Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
ZIMBABWE international defender Teenage Hadebe says his dream is to eventually play in the English Premiership after being inspired by his Warriors teammate, Marvelous Nakamba, that such lofty heights can be scaled.
The 24-year-old gangly centre-back moved from South African giants Kaizer Chiefs to Turkish side Yeni Malatyaspor in August this year but insists this is just a stepping stone in his European adventure.
“My dream is to play in the English Premier League where my brother Marvelous is playing right now,’’ Hadebe said.
“Although I am still adjusting to life in Turkey, for me, this is a stepping stone because I want to eventually play in the English Premier League.
“Marvelous has shown us that it’s possible to play in such a big league like the English Premier League and that has been inspiring us to try and do as well as he has done. “He has been a revelation at Aston Villa, not many people expected that he would settle so quickly and play as well as he has been doing and that gives all of us hope that we can get that far.
“It’s about chasing your dreams and being disciplined and remaining focused on doing your job and while, right now, my focus is on ensuring that my team in Turkey continues to do very well, I also have dreams of playing for an English side one day.’’
Midfielder Nakamba moved to Aston Villa in August this year, after starring in the Belgian top-flight league Club Brugge, and has been a revelation for the Birmingham side.
Hadebe, just like Nakamba, has now transformed himself as one of the key players for the Warriors.
The duo was part of the Zimbabwe senior national football team which bounced back from a depressing goalless draw against Botswana, in their opening 2021 AFCON qualifier last Friday, to beat bitter rivals Zambia 2-1 in Lusaka on Tuesday. Hadebe almost missed that important match, which would have been a huge blow for the Warriors given the player’s huge influence in the team’s defence.
The defender was almost barred from entering Zambia on Sunday, because of issues related to his passport, which would have thrown caretaker coach Joey Antipas’ plans into disarray.
“There were some problems when we arrived in Lusaka, they said I could not enter the country because all the pages on my passport had been used,” Hadebe told The Herald.
“I then called the team manager (Wellington Mpandare) to come and try and address the situation and after some negotiations, I was finally allowed to enter into Zambia.”
Zambian Immigration officials were concerned about allowing Hadebe entrance into their country when virtually all the pages on his passport, which remains valid, had been used when he entered various countries. Hadebe has formed a formidable partnership, with his Wales-based colleague Alec Mudimu, in what has become the Warriors’ first-choice central defensive partnership.
When Mudimu was ruled out by injury, in the final 2019 AFCON finals Group A game against the Democratic Republic of Congo, Hadebe struggled to adjust to playing alongside Lawrence Mhlanga and the Warriors crashed to a 0-4 humiliation. When the duo was reunited in the AFCON qualifier against Botswana at the National Sports Stadium last Friday night, the Warriors again kept a clean sheet.
Hadebe flew back home on Wednesday to secure a new passport and Mpandare said he expected the defender to get the travel document by Monday next week to enable him to fly back to his base in Turkey.
However, what this means is that he will miss a huge league match for his side against Turkish Super Lig giants Fenerbahce on Sunday.
Given the huge interest, which matches involving Fernerbahce generate not only in Turkey but across Europe, Hadebe is set to miss a golden chance where he would have, once again, demonstrated why he has transformed himself into one of the best defenders in the league.
Ironically, Hadebe didn’t feature when Yeni Malatyaspor took on the other Turkish giants, Galatasaray, in a home game that ended in a 1-1 draw. The Zimbabwean was left on the bench in that game during a period when he spent three matches out of the starting Xi.
Fenerbahce are the most popular football club in Turkey in the two major cities of the capital Ankara and Istanbul, where they are based, and have always boasted of being supported by 35 percent of the football fans in their country.
They have won 19 Turkish Super Lig titles and, when one factors in the six titles they won when the league was called the National Division and the three titles when it was still called the Football Championship, their 28 titles make them the most successful club in their country.
Fenerbahce have also won six Turkish Cups and nine Super Cups and sit second in this season’s championship race, just a point behind leaders Sivasspor, after winning six of their 11 matches, drawing two and losing three.
Hadebe’s side, Yeni Malatyaspor, are in seventh place but they are just three points behind the leaders, Sivasspor, after winning five of their 11 matches, drawing three and drawing as many games.
The Zimbabwean defender has featured in all his team’s five league matches (a 5-1 win over Denizlispor, a 2-0 away win over Konaspor, a 4-0 home win over Kayserispor, a 2-2 away draw against Kasimpa and a 1-1 away draw against Goztepe.
He has regularly been featuring in the league’s Team of the Week.
Hadebe said playing for the Warriors was very special, despite the challenges they usually face, and he will never turn his back on his country. The defender, however, called on authorities to work on the National Sports Stadium pitch, which he said was now making it difficult for the players to express themselves, because of the uneven surface.