TINO Kadewere has been to two AFCON finals, but can’t claim a combined 90 minutes from those editions.
And he says he was disappointed, after only making a cameo appearance in a lost cause in the last edition in Egypt in 2019.
The 24-year-old Olympique Lyon star is now arguably the highest-rated Zimbabwean player in the central forward position.
In an exclusive interview with ZTN’s Howard Musonza, he recounted the sad memories of Egypt and why he came back stronger at club level.
“I was really hurt that I didn’t get to play, even though I felt I deserved to play a little bit,” Kadewere said.
“It is not easy but I wanted to play, but it didn’t happen. I was really sad. After the Africa Cup of Nations, I just told myself I’m going back to work.”
Kadewere was also part of the squad that went to Gabon in 2017 and ended up making the numbers.
This was despite the fact that he was one of the most promising players of his generation.
Instead, Kalisto Pasuwa opted for the likes of Nyasha Mushekwi and Cuthbert Malajila.
Now, it boggles the mind that a player of Kadewere’s stature has not started a single match at the AFCON finals.
“When I went in 2019, I had had a very good season with Le Havre before going to AFCON.
“Before going, there was a lot of speculation that Tino is going to leave Le Havre,” said Kadewere.
“When I got selected to go to AFCON, I told myself this is going to be another opportunity for me to be seen by clubs that were making offers.”
This was before Kadewere realised he was just ‘another squad player’ under the legend, Sunday Chidzambwa.
“I went back to Le Havre and tried to forget everything that had happened and just tried to concentrate on my club football,” he said.
Kadewere went on to take France by storm, scoring for fun in Le Havre colours.
It was not surprising that giants Lyon and some Premier League teams were eager to sign him.
The former Harare City striker says Egypt pushed him to seek for the Promised Land as it were.
“I think for me at that moment, that was the only solution,” he said.
“For me to forget what had happened in Egypt, I had to focus on club football and it went very well. I worked hard and God blessed me.”
For Tino, this is not an isolated event.
His Warriors caps are a handful. Is he really so bad that at this stage, he can’t count 10 Warriors caps from competitive matches?
“To be honest, with the national team it has not been very good. I have not played as many games as possible, like consecutive games with the national team,” he said.
The Lyon striker remains optimistic.
“I play once and sometimes I don’t play. I’m still young and I know one day it is going to be a different story.”
The last decade has seen Nyasha Mushekwi being the point man in the Warriors squad while Cuthbert Malajila and Tendai Ndoro have been fighting for the same position.
That generation is gone.
Kadewere will now be expected to play a bigger role, sadly, without much experience in national colours.
It is a story the striker can’t come to grips with.
“I don’t know honestly. I don’t know the problem on this case. I try not to think about it and all I want is the best for the national team.
“And sometimes it doesn’t work like you want it to work. We have great players in the national team and we have huge talent that play for the Warriors, but I really don’t know what to say.”
It is not a secret that Kadewere will need to stamp his authority when the Warriors face the Desert Foxes of Algeria in back-to-back AFCON qualifiers.
For now, this is his mindset.
“It is just not happening. I don’t know how and I have no explanation. But I hope that one day it will change.”