By So Foot.com
FRENCH second division side Le Havre can count on its man in form: Tino Kadewere who arrived from Sweden last summer. This 23-year-old Zimbabwean international is the most expensive transfer in the club’s history but that is not enough to impress him as he has a mission more perilous to complete: it is called Ligue 1.
I know him very well. Until recently, he was active with an association that helps Zimbabwean players without a contract to find a club. He gave them a helping hand as a coach.
You spoke with him when signing in Le Havre?
Yes, he gave me some tips on how to better understand French football, to adapt to France and to progress. Learn your language as fast as possible for example and integrate me quickly in the group, so that I am not isolated from the rest of the players and I become fully one of them.
Your French adventure could have started a few years ago in Sochaux .
Absolutely. In 2014, I joined a Zimbabwean first division team (Harare City) with whom I played twelve games and scored eight goals. Two clubs then invited me to do a trial: Djurgårdens and Sochaux . I started in Sweden, then I spent a week in France .
Finally, it was Sweden that you chose. Why ?
I was not ready for European football. And then, because of the language barrier. In Sochaux , no one spoke English, while it was the case in Djurgårdens. So, it was the perfect place to acclimatize to Europe.
Is it true that you find Ligue 2 stronger than the Swedish D1?
You know, football is nearly the same everywhere, but the one we practice in France is both very physical and very intense; somewhat different from the one I was used to in the past. In Sweden, I would say that it is more tactical and that the technique is more modern. Please note that this does not mean that French football is devoid of technique; but although it is the physics that dominates. That’s why I find the Ligue 2 stronger than the Swedish D1. If you can play in Ligue 2, you can play everywhere.
What kind of player were you in Zimbabwe ?
I was called a complete player because I started in midfield and sometimes on the wings. What I noticed at home was my skills and my speed. But when I arrived in Sweden , everything changed because I was relocated to number 9 and I learned to play for the team. Speed, I always have, technical moves too, but I’m focusing more on what the team wants me to do for them. I do not necessarily want to put myself forward. What matters is how I can put what I can do for the benefit of the team’s goals.
You once said ‘I want everyone to know who Tino is’. So who are you?
I started playing football from the age of seven in the academy my father had in Zimbabwe, and always with boys older than me. Around 10-11 years old, I was already playing in U15! Being where I am today is like a dream. For me as for my father. You know, in Zimbabwe, football is not the most recognised (professional) discipline. And yet, it is a country full of young talents. But if you want to break through, you have to hang on and sometimes play for your name so that it is known throughout the country.
What are your models?
I support Manchester United since the time Cristiano Ronaldo, who is still my favourite player. When he was transferred to Real Madrid, I started to cheer for Real Madrid. And today, it’s the same with Juventus. But United is still my heart club. At the level of my position, I admire Harry Kane. He is one of the best strikers in the world and I often watch videos of him to try to replicate what he’s doing on the field.
What did you know about HAC before getting there?
I knew it was the oldest club in France, and a lot of talent was there in their early days. Just look at where are players like Paul Pogba or Benjamin Mendy. To sign, it was obviously to progress myself, but also to help the team to achieve the goal of the rise in Ligue 1. It’s not an easy task, but I think we have the qualities necessary to achieve this. If so, it will be good for my name and my career. But let it be clear: I play for the team, not for my name. And if we play well, maybe then I could still progress personally.
Twenty million Swedish kroner, that’s two million euros and it is the largest amount ever spent by Le Havre to attract the services of a player. How do we live with this label stuck on the forehead?
This brings pressure sometimes difficult to manage. But when you’re a professional, you have to get used to it. It’s in my head that this kind of thing happens, and I have to make sure that it does not affect my performance on the field.
The leadership of Le Havre seemed to really have confidence in you since you arrived injured in the collateral ligament of the left knee.
It’s true. But I quickly felt comfortable in the group, because the technical staff and the other players prepared me beforehand with advice on what to do on the field, so that I find immediately my place once able to play. It’s been a long and difficult time (his first appearance was on November 9, Ed) , but I think I’ve made progress since I left Sweden .
Maybe I helped make the club more famous because when I go home, I always come back with products from the store. But the HAC was still a little known, because it has long played in Ligue 1 and is the oldest club in France .
How was the adaptation for your family?
My wife and my son are used to living far from the country. When you marry a footballer, you know that these things are part of everyday life and they adapt very well. When we were in Sweden , my son was going to Swedish school and my wife was also taking classes. We repeated this in Le Havre. If one day I go to Italy , they will learn Italian. And if I play in Czechia, they will learn Czech.
Who would not want to live in France ? It is one of the most beautiful countries in the world! In Zimbabwe , when you tell people that you live there, they respect you so much … As for Normandy, it’s a very beautiful region. I love Le Havre because it is not a very big city and we have the beach nearby. In addition, Paris is only two hours away, which allows us to go sightseeing with family when we have free time.
Have you made friends outside the locker room? The Zimbabwean community is not very important in Le Havre …
I do not have any Zimbabwean friends in France , but I know some South African players who have the same agent as me. As Lebogang Phiri at Guingamp or Lebo Mothiba in Strasbourg, with whom we sometimes get to see each other from time to time.
Benjani advised you to put yourself very quickly in French to facilitate your integration. How does it go on that side?
As soon as I arrived, I had a teacher who taught me almost every day. Sometimes from 8 to 20 hours! Today, I understand when the coach gives his instructions and that the players discuss between them. The only thing that remains difficult for me is when people are talking very fast. But otherwise, I understand the essential.
Can we do the next interview in French?
(He answers in the language of Molière)No problem !