AFTER successfully luring the England-based trio of Tendayi Darikwa, Admiral Muskwe and Kundai Benyu last month, Zimbabwe are set to make another ambitious bid to convince talented Reading FC midfielder Andrew Farai Rinomhota to feature for the Warriors, The Sports Hub can exclusively reveal.
BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
Darikwa of Nottingham Forest together with the Celtic and Leicester City duo of Benyu and Muskwe respectively finally made their Warriors debuts in international friendly defeats against Lesotho and Namibia last month.
And now Zimbabwe, who are on a drive to tap into talent emerging from among the diaspora, have set their sights on another England-based player, rising Reading FC midfielder Rinomhota, who has been enjoying a brilliant season in the Championship.
The 20-year-old was born in Leeds, England to a Zimbabwean father and British mother, which makes him eligible to represent the Warriors should he decide to do so.
Warriors’ team manager Wellington Mpandare told The Sports Hub that he had recently been alerted about the player and had already started the process of trying to convince him to consider an international career with Zimbabwe.
“Yes, I was recently made aware of Andrew Farai Rinomhota by one of our contacts in England,” Mpandare told The Sports Hub in an interview. “He’s one of the exciting prospects at Reading and we have already started the process of engaging him to see if he would be interested in representing Zimbabwe in international football,” he added.
Mpandare said if their pursuit was successful, Rinomhota was one of the players they had earmarked to feature for the Warriors during the upcoming Fifa international break in March.
“The good thing is that the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers were moved from March to October next year, so the coaches will have more time to have a look at him. We are hoping to play some friendly matches in March and hopefully he will be one of the new players who will join us,” he said.
After a successful transition following his promotion from the club’s Under-23 side, Reading FC last week rewarded the highly-talented midfielder with a new three-and-half-year deal with the club.
The new deal means Rinomhota, whose youth football career started at AFC Portchester before moving to the Reading Academy, will remain a Reading player until the English summer of 2021.
Reading FC manager, Dutchman Jaap Stam, who won six trophies at Manchester United and was part of the legendary side that won the treble in 1999, said Rinomhota had made a positive impression since breaking into the first team early this year.
“From the start of the season when he joined us in Holland for pre-season and became part of the first team squad, Andy has made a very good impression.
“He’s a box to box midfield player with a lot of quality and ability as an individual, but he also brings a lot of energy to the team in any game he plays in, so I’m delighted we have been able to offer another one of our promising academy graduates a long-term deal at the club.”
Rinomhota, who is described on the Reading FC website as “a talented and energetic midfielder”, joined the Reading Academy ranks from AFC Portchester as an 18-year-old in 2015, signing an initial two-year deal at Madejski Stadium.
He went on to impress in both the U18s and U21s sides and made his mark within the U23s last season when he made 39 appearances in all competitions.
Rinomhota missed a single fixture in 2016-17, a season which saw him compete against first team opposition in the Checkatrade Trophy and score three times — against Birmingham City, Arsenal and Tottenham Hostpur — while amassing a total of 39 appearances across all competitions.
The midfielder was part of the first-team squad’s pre-season camp in the Netherlands and he was on the bench for the opening day defeat against Queens Park Rangers at Loftus Road.
His professional debut followed just days later when he played in the Carabao Cup win over Gillingham and he made another start against Millwall in the second round.
Rinomhota, who is soon expected to return from a hamstring injury to continue his progress at the club, said his aim was to “kick on” after signing the new Royals deal.
“It feels great. I’m delighted to extend my deal here at Reading and hopefully I can kick on now,” he said.
“When I first came into the first team squad this summer, it was a new experience for me and some of the others…new surroundings. But I got my head down and worked hard and thankfully it’s all paying off now.”
Reading FC chief executive Ron Gourlay said: “Andy is another promising young player we believe in.
“In the glimpses our supporters have had of him in first team action this season, he has certainly impressed and warranted his inclusion on the manager’s teamsheet.
“But most importantly, he is hungry to improve, achieve and succeed as a Reading FC player.
“From the start of the season when he joined us in Holland for pre-season and became part of the first team squad, Andy has made a very good impression.”
Reading FC technical director Brian Tevreden added: “In his performances for the U23s throughout last season, Andy consistently demonstrated how capable he was of potentially making an impact at first team level.
“And, making that step up in the two cup ties he has played in this season, he has begun to prove himself as a professional.
“Now, after recovering from injury, it is down to him to continue to strive for improvement and press for more first team minutes when the opportunity presents itself.”