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‘Antonio still half-baked’

HENRY MHARA
DYNAMOS prodigy Bill Antonio is not yet ripe for the European market, according to his coach Tonderai Ndiraya, who believes a move now could negatively affect his fledgling career.

The 19-year old, who has been in sensational form for the Glamour Boys, has reportedly been invited for trials at Belgian top flight side KV Mechelen.

But the FIFA ban on Zimbabwe could complicate the deal with sources confiding to Zimbabwe Independent yesterday that the trip for the one month trial stint, which is scheduled to start on April 1, is now hanging in the balance.

Ndiraya says the invite has come too soon for Antonio, who only graduated from Prince Edward High School last year.

He feels the timing of a move to Europe for Antonio is critical to his development.

“The boy is doing well so far. But these are only a few matches that we have played in the season. As his coach I would really love him to play more games, to get more experience before he goes abroad. He is still learning, he hasn’t gotten to a stage where you think he is ripe for the European market if I have to be honest,” Ndiraya said yesterday.

“Officially it (invitation letter) hasn’t come to me so I wouldn’t want to comment on that. I saw that in the media but I would be very happy for the boy if that is true. What is important is for the boy to be consistent in his performances.”

Ndiraya said many local players left the country too soon and struggled to adapt abroad, which saw their careers go downhill.

He wishes for Antonio not to follow the same path. The biggest worry for Antonio fans, though, is that if he stays too long in Zimbabwe, he could lose his current form and possibly lose potential European suitors.

“But what’s good about Europe is that if he goes there with the level he’s got at the moment, we are sure that he would be developed further,” Ndiraya said.

“He will be in a very good system which would really develop him to be a player that we all want him to be. He has been progressing quite well positively and hopefully he can keep himself grounded, keep working the way he has been doing.”

This is the second time that the teenager, who already has senior national team caps, has been invited for trials by the Antwerp based club with close ties with Dynamos. His first call came last year but the trip could not materialise because of Covid-19 travel restrictions.

But that did not dampen his spirit, and he has been in top form for Dynamos this season.He scored the killer goal in the 2-0 win over Bulawayo Chiefs three weeks ago and delivered a man of the match in the 3-1 win over Tenax a fortnight ago when he provided two assists and was also involved in the third goal.

Last week, he was again on target as he scored the clincher in Dynamos’ 2-0 victory over Zpc Kariba.

Inevitably, he has not escaped the media attention.

Ndiraya is hoping that the media spotlight will not affect his performances.

“He has been subjected to a lot of publicity in the media in the last weeks, which I feel as his coach is not good for him. Publicity is good, yes, but sometimes it turns to affect these young players,” he said.

“But being a leader he is, he has really maintained his cool and has worked hard. He has kept on doing what he has been doing before which is quite encouraging. We will also continue to urge him to keep his cool and working hard so that he can keep progressing.”

The jet-legged winger will be again expected to lead his side when they face Harare City at the National Sports Stadium on Sunday.

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