Tino is our Footballer of the Season
IT’S Tino Kadewere and, by an overwhelming majority, the Olympique Lyon forward is The Herald’s 2021 Footballer of the Season.
The 25-year-old has been voted the best performing Zimbabwean footballer, during the 2020/2021 season, by a panel of this newspaper’s football writers.
He picked seven of the 11 votes cast, in a blowout victory, with Tanzania-based forward, Prince Dube, coming a distant second, with two votes.
Aston Villa midfielder, Marvelous Nakamba, picked a single vote to take third place.
Kadewere will be handed with a special award, when he returns home, for winning the gong, which honours the stars for how they fared in the season, which started in August last year, and has just drawn to a close.
This is how The Herald’s pundits voted and why they ended up settling for those players:
Robson Sharuko (Senior Sports Editor) — MARVELOUS NAKAMBA
I know my vote for Marvelous Nakamba might sound strange to many, who have seen him spend the majority of the season on the Aston Villa bench, but he is my choice for our outstanding player this season.
The stage where he is playing, in the most competitive league in world football, which has provided the two finalists for the UEFA Champions League and a finalist for the UEFA Europa League, is unforgiving terrain and only the very best can find themselves there.
It’s easy, for a country whose password for brilliance, will always be provided by Peter Ndlovu tearing defences apart, not to appreciate the value of players like Nakamba, just like the way we never really attached significant value, to the reality that Benjamin Nkonjera was the spine of the Dream Team.
But, 13 appearances, helping his team to nine victories, and only three losses, when he was part of the line-up, including some amazing performances against the giants like Chelsea, Tottenham and Arsenal, for me, overshadows anything I have seen from the other Zimbabweans.
When you have to battle the likes of Arsenal’s Thomas Partey, Chelsea’s Jorginho and Spurs’ Pierre-Emire Hojbjerg, the value of your contribution has to take into consideration of the pedigree of those you are battling against and, it’s because of this, that Nakamba gets my vote.
Tyson Fury might dominate the current heavyweight boxing landscape but he will never be ranked alongside the likes of Muhammad Ali for the simple reason that, when the Greatest was fighting, the trenches were full of the finest boxers ever like Smokin’ Joe, George Foreman, Sonny Liston, Ken Norton and Larry Holmes.
The statistics, even in those 13 appearances, create a beautiful story – 285 passes, 21,92 passes per match, 22 tackles, 64% tackles success rate, 17 interceptions, 58 recoveries, 42 duels won, 23 duels lost and just one error, leading to a goal, all season.
Until another Zimbabwean graduates to the big league, of the English Premiership, or plays in La Liga, the Bundesliga and Serie A, or wins the Golden Boot in French Ligue 1, I will find it difficult to find reason to believe 13 appearances, including brutal battles against the likes of Chelsea, Arsenal and Spurs, can be pushed into the shadows.
Collin Matiza (Sports Editor) — TINO KADEWERE
My Footballer of the Season is Tino Kadewere.
In his first season in the French Ligue 1, and in a squad jam-packed with attacking players, Kadewere might have thought he’d play only sporadically in the just-ended season. Instead, he featured in 33 matches for Lyon this season, scoring 10 goals, peppered with three assists and played a major role in their run to finish fourth in the French League 1.
Kadewere had a total 45 shots on goal and his goal conversion was 22%. His shot accuracy was put at 51%, not bad at all for a striker who was making his debut appearance in the league, which is also the home of some of Africa’s best players, especially those from West Africa.
In a season, blighted by injuries, he still managed to end the campaign as Lyon’s third-best goal-scorer with 10 goals, after Memphis Depay (20), and Karl Toko Ekambi (14).
Kadewere was a handful for opposition defenders and, in the Lyon side, only Mendy was fouled more often.
He was fearless in attack, running at defenders and chipping in with crucial goals, playing a substantial part in Lyon’s good run.
Eddie Chikamhi (Senior Sports Reporter) — TINO KADEWERE
He has seen his debut season in the French Ligue 1 marred by injuries but Tino Kadewere fits the bill, as Zimbabwe’s best foreign export, in the just-ended season.
Kadewere had a brilliant start, in one of Europe’s Big Five leagues, scoring 10 times and contributing three assists.
He almost clinched a UEFA Champions League ticket, for next season, but his team was just two points shy, after finishing fourth, in the race.
However, he will play in the UEFA Europa League.
No one gave Kadewere a chance of commanding a starting place in Lyon’s team, which is teeming with talent, from all over Europe and Africa.
Usually, players coming from lower ranks, struggle to cope with the demands, and level, of competition.
But, he went on to make 33 appearances and capped the season with a double0-digit tally.
His 10 goals eclipsed superstars like Neymar, who scored nine, France international Dimtri Payet (7), Germany forward Julian Draxler (4) and Argentina’s Angel di Maria (4).
The 25-year-old was on the final shortlist of three African players, vying for the Marc-Vivien Foe prize, alongside Montpelier’s Algerian forward Andy Delort and the eventual winner Kakuta of Lens.
(Grace Chingoma — Senior Sports Reporter) — PRINCE DUBE
Prince Dube has become a hit at Azam FC in Tanzania where he has been bagging in some amazing goals, which have provided some of the highlights, of one of the fastest-growing top-flight leagues, in Africa.
He has reinvested himself, as both a great goal-scorer and, also, a scorer of great goals.
What makes his resurgence even special is how he has fought his way back to the big time, after being rejected by SuperSport United, as someone who wasn’t good enough for that level of football.
There is no doubt that the South African clubs are now back on his trail with his advisors saying their man deserves to play in Europe.
It has been a stunning turnaround for him and, despite his injuries, he could still win the Golden Boot, as he has 14 league goals and leads the race, despite missing about two months of the campaign, because of injury.
He is my outstanding Zimbabwean Footballer of the Season.
(Ellina Mhlanga — Senior Sports Reporter) — TINO KADEWERE
It was a bag of mixed fortunes for Zimbabwe’s foreign-based crew, with some excelling, while some were not at their best.
Tino Kadewere has become a household name, and one of the leading footballers in Zimbabwe, because of his exploits on the pitch.
His exploits were there for everyone to see, accepting the challenge of playing at a higher league, against the likes of Neymar of Brazil, and producing some of the best moments for his team.
There is no doubt that, given his explosive start to life in the French top-flight league, he is the best performing Zimbabwean footballer, in the just ended season.
He could have done more, which would have seen his club qualify for the UEFA Champions League, had his season not been marred by injuries.
If he was good enough to be among the last three men standing for the award, given to the best African player in French Ligue 1, then he deserves to be honoured as the best in his country.
(Tadious Manyepo — Sports Reporter) — TINO KADEWERE
It takes something special, for someone to debut in the French Ligue 1 with a club of Lyon’s stature, and flourish like what Tino Kadewere has done.
In 2018 minutes, spread over 33 games, he has had 33 shots at goal, 16 of them on target and scored 10, while providing three assists for his teammates.
His efforts may have failed to inspire Lyon to a UEFA Champions League place but they were still good enough to help the club qualify for the UEFA Europa League.
Despite enduring close to four months, of recurring injuries, Kadewere still did enough to warrant third place, in the Marc-Vivien Foe award.
He is the first player, from Southern Africa, to be shortlisted for that award, and that is very special.