Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
TINO Kadewere is a refreshingly honest athlete — for all his initial success in Europe, including a move to French giants Olympique Lyon, he is yet to explode in the colours of the Warriors.
While his club career has flourished, so far, Kadewere has struggled to impose himself in the Warriors colours.
He has found himself staggering in the shadow of the golden duo of Knowledge Musona and Khama Billiat.
Ironically, both Musona and Billiat play for clubs, in Belgium and South Africa, who are considered to be lightweights when compared to Lyon, where Kadewere is now contracted.
He has been to two AFCON finals, in Gabon in 2017 and in Egypt last year, but he has only featured in just 20 minutes of action.
The lanky forward came in as a 70th minute replacement, for Marshall Munetsi, in the 0-4 defeat at the hands of the Democratic Republic of Congo in Cairo, in a Group A match on June 30 last year.
Kadewere’s other two appearances, in the AFCON qualifiers, against Liberia in Monrovia, and Congo-Brazzaville in Harare, did not also yield a goal despite being thrust into the starting XI in both matches.
The battle against Congo-Brazzaville marked the first time the Warriors fielded the Dream Triple K attacking combination — Kadewere, Khama, Knowledge — in the same AFCON qualifier.
Khama curled home a beauty, from a free-kick, to open the scoring, before Knowledge fired home a stunning goal, to virtually end the contest, as the Warriors secured their ticket to the 2019 Nations Cup finals.
The golden duo’s goals took their tally, in the qualifiers, to eight goals with Knowledge scoring five and Khama getting three while Kadewere did not score a goal.
His alibi, though, was that ruptured knee ligaments meant he missed all, but two of the six 2019 AFCON qualifiers.
However, when it comes to his club statistics, Kadewere has been a fine goal-scorer, with 18 goals in his 60 appearances for Swedish side Djurgadens IF, including nine assists, and 26 goals for French Ligue 2 side, Le Havre, including nine assists.
His 20 league goals, in 24 matches for Le Havre, last season, helped him win the Ligue 2 Golden Boot and were crucial in landing him a move to Lyon.
Refreshingly, Kadewere, acknowledges he has yet to hit the expected heights, when it comes to playing for his country, which, in itself, is a virtue for a footballer who now knows a lot is expected from him on the international scene.
“To be honest, I haven’t had a huge spark with my national team,’’ he told SuperSport football anchor, Carol Tshabalala of South Africa, in a recent interview.
“And, I still have time, I think, I’m 24 years old and I respect the guys that play in front of me (Musona and Billiat).
“I always believe that, one day, I will make my nation proud.’’
And, according to Kadewere, that means playing a big role in helping the Warriors qualifying, for the first time, for the World Cup finals.
While the Warriors have made it to four AFCON finals, they are yet to make their bow at the World Cup finals, with the Dream Team coming very close to getting to the Promised Land during the ’94 World Cup qualifiers.
Reinhard Fabisch and his trailblazing Warriors took their country on a merry adventure, where they came within 90 minutes of a place in the United States only for their campaign to be ended by the Indomitable Lions of Cameroon in the final game of the qualifiers.
Kadewere insists it’s still possible for the Warriors to qualify for the World Cup finals and he wants to be part of that historic mission when that dream finally comes true.
At 24, it means he has, at least, two World Cup finals to target, the 2022 global football showcase in Qatar and the 2026 edition in the United States, Mexico and Canada.
In the event the Warriors fail to make it to Qatar, both Musona and Billiat will be 33 when the 2026 World Cup qualifiers get underway in 2023. Kadewere will be 27 and, probably, at the peak of his athletic powers.
“The goal, for my country, is to go to the World Cup,’’ Kadewere told Tshabalala. “I want us to go to the World Cup and people to get to say that Tino was in the generation that made our country go to the World Cup for the first time.
“I know, you not gonna like this. You know we have South Africa in our group, but I’m looking forward to that game. I have never played South Africa, I have played Zambia, they are our neighbours, I have played Botswana, I have played Mozambique, but not South Africa.
“I am looking forward to that game.
“It’s one of the hurdles, in front of us, for us to go to the World Cup, you know what I mean.’’
Zimbabwe will play South Africa, Ghana and Ethiopia in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.