By Eddie Chikamhi
Tino Kadewere may not have featured in a single game for his new club Olympique Lyon since the US$16 million move earlier this year but the gesture demonstrated by his French Ligue 1 club during their Champions League football quarter-final match against English Premiership side Manchester City on Saturday night has touched many hearts across the globe.
Players from the French giants, who probably had never heard of Prince Kadewere, brother to their teammate Tino, until his death last week, took their humane side to the grand stage when they warmed-up for their crucial Champions League quarter-final clash against Manchester City in black T-shirts emblazoned “Rest in Heaven Prince Kadewere.”
And after qualifying for the semi-finals of the Champions League with an impressive 3-1 victory over the Citizens, Olympique Lyon dedicated their victory to their player Tino, who had returned to Zimbabwe last Wednesday soon after hearing about the tragedy in the family.
Tino, who joined the side in January this year after winning the French Ligue 2 Golden Boot with Le Havre, is currently not registered to play in the Champions League.
But his teammates demonstrated unfathomable love and concern by wearing T-shirts as a form of their tribute to his late brother and went on to wave the T-shirts after the final whistle during the celebrations on the lawn of the José Alvalade stadium in Lisbon, Portugal, which is several thousands of kilometres away from Zvimba in Zimbabwe where Tino and the family were grieving.
“My brother Tino this victory is for you, be strong my brother!” twitted Lyon teammate and double scorer on the night, Moussa Dembele.
Another Lyon star, Memphis Depay, also joined in with his message: “What a team work! A proud moment for the players, staff, president, Club, and supporters!!! Tonight’s victory shows that with dreaming and believing you can achieve things! Also dedicate this victory to Prince Kadewere! Rest in heaven.”
As Lyon showed up on the pitch of the José Alvalade stadium in Portugal with the black T-shirts with the message of comfort, many people across the globe might probably have wondered who Prince was? The social media was also awash with the images.
The gesture was in memory of Prince who died in Harare on Wednesday last week at the age of 40 after developing complications from pneumonia.
“Paying tribute to Prince Kadewere, who sadly passed away recently. All our thoughts are with Tino and his family,” said Lyon in a tweet, both in English and French, that attracted thousands of views and some retweets.
The eldest of the Kadewere siblings, Prosper, yesterday said the family was humbled by the consolation extended to them by Lyon.
Prosper said the family responded by going down to their knees and they made a special prayer for Lyon ahead of their crunch Champions League quarter-final date with Manchester City on Saturday night.
“We were really stressed as a family by this issue but Lyon, just like many people in the football fraternity, really made us feel comforted.
“In fact, we were shocked to see that they had to go to such levels, just to show their love and concern. It also made us understand what Tino means to them and we really appreciate the gesture as a family.
“It has been an amazing show of love from these guys. They facilitated for Tino to return home and they have been calling us since last week, three to four times a day, just to enquire how things were going on the ground.
“So we are happy they won the game. It was a huge consolation for Tino and the whole family.
“We watched the game later in the evening, after the burial of Prince, and we actually made a prayer for them.
“For your own information, everyone in the family now supports Olympique Lyon. It’s now the family team and we wish them well in their future endeavours,” said Prosper.
Lyon will now face German giants Bayern Munich in the semi-finals this Wednesday.
Even though Kadewere is yet to make an official appearance for Lyon, commentators believe this gesture will definitely make him feel wanted, loved and comfortable being part of the football family.
Herald Senior Sports Editor, Robson Sharuko, was also touched by the levels of professionalism displayed by the French club.
“These guys are professional, to imagine Prince was a guy they never knew. Well done Olympique Lyon,” he tweeted.
Local football administrator, Martin Changachirere, said the domestic game should learn from this kind of appreciation which helps the player to perform better when he returns for duty.
“Classy act by Olympique Lyon. This is heartwarming during a sombre moment for the Kadewere family. Tino will feel appreciated and part of the group.
“Hopefully we learn from this gesture. It’s the simple things that we take for granted that matter most,” he said.
Another commentator, Martin Tumbare, also weighed in: “Teams are more than kicking the ball together, teams are being one and working in unity and unison.
“What you did for Tino will forever live in our memories. Thank you Lyon, Zimbabwe will never forget you.
“More than a team. Congratulations for the semis, go for the gold.”
Many Zimbabweans also reacted to Lyon’s gesture on social media.
“Prince was a good coach, it’s a gap which will never be filled; heartening that Lyon also grieved with us,” tweeted Garikai Goremusandu.
“Just for this tweet of yours, I’m now rooting for you today,” said Russell Paddy Mkusa ahead of Saturday night’s game.
“All the best in your match tonight OL. Be blessed for honouring Prince,” tweeted Allen Maradziike.
“Thank you Lyon. The people of Highfield appreciate the gesture. You have won a supporter! RIP Pipi,” said another social media user with tweeter identity, Mr Vundla. The Herald