Tino Kadewere says he has point to prove

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THERE is an uneven fluctuation in Tino Kadewere’s voice that is born out of an unmistaken emotional discomfort when he speaks of the untimely death of his brother Prince “Pipi”, who had become a father figure in his life.

Pipi, who passed away earlier this month and was buried last Sunday, was more than a brother to the Warriors and Lyon forward.

It was the late 40-year-old, who bought Tino his first football boots, and had become his favourite trainer despite the exposure to top professional coaches in Europe where he has distinguished himself as a prolific goal-scorer.

Tino pauses before he sighs and then speaks with purpose: “To be honest I had three brothers but I was closer to Pipi because when I was growing up, most people would tell me that I played football in a similar way to Pipi. I also inherited his number when I was young; I wear the number 14 which he used to wear.”

Death has been unkind to the Lyon forward after the family lost their patriarch Onias five years ago, a demise that Tino is still struggling to cope with.

There is a memory montage that the 24-year-old plays to this reporter that makes the rather conservative young man vulnerable. It is clear his heart is still broken.

“When I lost my father I said to myself, ‘okay I lost my dad but I have three fathers left – Prosper, Pipi and Paddy’, but now knowing that I only have two it’s not easy,” Tino said with tears rolling down his cheeks.

Despite all the personal tragedy that has befallen the Kadewere family in recent years, Tino remains resolute and is sure of what he wants to do when he returns to Lyon — making his late father and brother proud wherever they are.

What has solidified the bond between the former Le Havre forward and his new club is the way Lyon, the team he only joined in May, has reacted following his brother’s death.

At the time of Pipi’s passing on, Tino and his Lyon teammates were preparing for the Uefa Champions League quarter-final against Manchester City in Lisbon, Portugal.

The Ligue 1 side took to the field for their warm-up before the City clash wearing T-shirts emblazoned with the words “Rest in heaven Prince Kadewere”.

The big screen at the match venue — Estadio Jose Alvalade — also displayed a similar message before kick-off in images that were seen by millions of viewers throughout the globe.

After their shock 3-1 win over  City, Lyon talisman Memphis Depay dedicated the victory to Tino and Pipi; a gesture that left millions of Zimbabweans in awe.

“To be honest, it was very touching. I could not believe what I saw honestly. I first heard it whilst I was at the burial that my team is going to wear shirts in honour of my brother,” Tino said.

“I was actually talking to my elder brother Prosper and I was telling him ‘I don’t believe they can do that because, of course, I’m their teammate but they knew nothing about Pipi’.

“I never believed it and also that they were playing a Uefa Champions League match, I thought they would not be allowed to do it.

“I was just not so sure but when I saw it, I cried, I cried not because of being sad but because of the love the club has for me.”

While many saw the images of Depay, Moussa Dembele and Houssem Aouar and the rest of Lyon team paying tribute to Pipi, behind the scenes, the Ligue 1 giants also made an incredible effort to ensure Tino arrives in Zimbabwe to be with his family.

“The day I got the sad news, they (Lyon) were there for me and stood  by me.
“They told me they would arrange flights for me to be with my family and mourn with them as soon as possible.

“When I received the news, it was shortly after training and it was hard for me; I couldn’t control myself, I had so many emotions…“The club officials spoke with me told me, ‘you are a man and you need to be strong for you to go back to Zimbabwe’.

“At that point, they immediately arranged for me to travel from Lyon to Paris using the club president’s private jet because that’s where I would get the fastest flight to get to Zimbabwe.”

After he arrived in Harare, Tino faced another hurdle as he and his wife together with their two young children were immediately placed in quarantine due to the health protocols in place ever since the outbreak of coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.

The Kadeweres were supposed to have spent eight days in isolation and that meant they would miss the burial.
“They (Lyon) helped in securing my release from the quarantine centre to get to the funeral as soon as possible by sending some crucial information,” Tino said.

“Winning against Man City and dedicating that victory to my brother and myself was a splendid moment. I’m just sad that we couldn’t progress to the finals but I’m really proud of the guys, I’m really happy they got to that stage which they got.

“So to be honest, it was very touching and up until now I still can’t believe it but I feel the love. I’m really honoured to be part of that group.”

After receiving such love from his new team, Tino is now desperate to repay the club with impressive performances when Lyon begin their Ligue 1 season this week.

The Warriors forward is scheduled to return to France to link up with his teammates tomorrow ahead of next Friday’s opening game against Dijon.

“When a club shows you this kind of love just a few months after joining them, and have never played any competitive match yet…. this shows they have faith in me and they believe in me,” Tino said.

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