Senior Sports Reporter
A rivalry that began in Harare, a few years ago, was rekindled yesterday when Tino Kadewere and Marshall Munetsi met, for the first time, in the French Ligue 1.
And, it was the Warriors striker Kadewere, who had the last laugh, after his in-form Olympique Lyon outfit romped to a comprehensive 3-0 win at home.
Kedewere played for an hour in this historic match-up for the Zimbabwean players and, although he could not find the target, his teammates Toko Ekambi, Guimaraes and Moussa Dembele ensured a perfect Sunday afternoon for Rudy Garcia’s side.
The former Harare City man was denied by the post in the first half after he had beaten the Reims goalkeeper with a low shot from his left foot.
Kadewere and Munetsi have developed a very close relationship, which started in 2012, when they were still playing for the national Under-17 side.
But, yesterday, the two Zimbabwe internationals had to put their friendship aside.
The interesting sub-plot was summed up in the interview Kadewere gave the Lyon media before the match where he retraced the relationship between the two compatriots.
“Marshal is my friend. He is a great person. We started playing together in 2012. We played for the Under-17 national team.
“We have had a very good relationship since 2012. We are always talking together, we watch each other’s games and we always discuss them afterwards.
“We need to stick together because it’s only the two of us from Zimbabwe playing in France. It’s the first time we are playing against each other in France but we played in Harare.
He was playing for Blue Rangers and I was playing for Harare City and I won every time,” said Kadewere.
As, if on cue, Kadewere was on the winning end again yesterday as Lyon claimed their fifth win in six Ligue 1 games and climbed into second place on the standings.
They now have 23 points, from 12 starts, and they trail leaders Paris St Germain, who were held to a 2-2 home draw by Girondins de Bordeaux on Saturday, by two points.
But, their position was under threat from Lille who played St Etienne last night.
Reims’ defeat left them in 17th position on nine points.
However, while Munetsi and his side are struggling for stability, Kadewere is enjoying a fine run with Lyon.
He scored in the team’s last two matches, which they won, and has so far contributed four goals and an assist in six outings.
He even had an opportunity to register his name on the scoresheet yesterday but was denied by the post 31 minutes into the game, with Lyon leading 1-0, thanks to Ekambi’s early opener.
Kadewere was later pulled out for Dembele in the 60th minute and the French forward rewarded his coach with the third goal of the match six minutes later.
This was the first time in over 15 years that two Zimbabwean players found themselves in opposing teams in the French Ligue 1, since Benjani Mwaruwari and Harlington Shereni.
Mwaruwari played for AJ Auxerre in the 2004 season while Shereni was at En Avant Guingamp.
Kadewere said the journey had not been easy for him in Europe.
“Since I was little, I wanted to play in Europe. It was not easy. After a week in Sochaux, I found myself in Sweden. It was very cold.
“I preferred Djurgårdens to Sochaux because everyone spoke English.
“I played four years there, and I worked hard. I needed to progress in Europe after I left Zimbabwe. The level was really different,” said Kadewere.
He said he was influenced by French striker, Karim Benzema, to consider Lyon over the numerous offers that came his way after topping the Ligue 2 scoring charts last season.
“I saw Karim Benzema play here. In my opinion, he is the best striker in the world. He knows how to do everything on a pitch.
“He scores, he passes, he works for the team. He is a complete player.
“It made me want to come. It was not easy at the beginning because I came from Le Havre. Everything is bigger.
“I was happy because everyone helped me to fit in. Nobody put me aside. I joined a family.
“Memphis (Depay) is next to me in the locker room. We talk to each other all the time. He’s a good guy. He’s a real captain. He’s nice to everyone.
“When I lost my brother, he was with me on the phone all the time. He asks for news of my relatives. We’re like a family on this team.”
Kadewere’s goal is to play in the Champions League.
“The goal is to play in the Champions League. I’ve already taken a step forward with OL. It’s a very big club. I am very happy to be here.
“I play with very good players. We have a good relationship; we are like a family. I have to stay focused.”