QUESTIONS: IS it a major American diplomatic coup for Highlanders? Or the story should read from California to Emagumeni?
Answer: Only time will tell as another American could soon be donning the famous zebra-shirted Highlanders jersey with young Dillon Nino trying his luck with the Bulawayo giants.
Nino (23), who plays as a centre- back, has been training with Bosso since last month and was part of the club’s arsenal that recently went for training camps in Matopo and in the Eastern Highlands.
Pictures of Nino in the company of Bosso’s seasoned players that include Peter Mudhuwa, club returnee Prince Dube and new signing Mbekezeli Sibanda have been circulating in social media circles.
The central defenders seem to have impressed the Madinda Ndlovu-led Bosso technical department as he was spotted by B-Metro Sport doing workouts at a local gym on Tuesday afternoon alongside other Highlanders players that included right-back MacClive Phiri and Zimbabwe Under-20 captain Andrew Mbeba.
Bosso chief executive officer Nhlanhla Dube could not commit himself on commenting on whether Nino could put pen to paper at Bosso.
“It’s a complex issue,” said the Bosso head of secretariat.
However, it seems the Bulawayo football giants have been able to handle teething matters like insurance and welfare for young Nino.
Highlanders have previously been home to Tommy Clark, Geoffrey Wheeler, Kelly Jacobson and former Melrose Place actor Andrew Shue from the United States of America (USA).
Shue recently let his two sons Nathaniel, a right-back and Aiden, a midfielder, to train with Bosso. In 1985, Bosso had Tony Smith on attachment from the UK as Highlanders lived up to its cosmopolitan outlook which continues even to this day with players from around the country.
In 2014, two Canadian soccer players, Philippe Bannioult, a striker and goalkeeper Jean-Felix Legault-Lemieux underwent trials at Bosso following a deal that was brokered by Canada-based Highlanders member Isaac Mbedzi who owns First Mobile Academy.
Had they been successful in their trials they could have put the Bosso brand on the international map and market the club to that part of the world.
The 23-year-old Nino, is an Entrepreneurship graduate, born and raised in Fresno.
He also spent some time in Arizona when he played with the Real Salt Lake Academy during his junior and senior years in high school. He was part of the roster that won the Under-15/16 Development Academy title during the United States of America’s 2012-13 season. One of his coaches knew the head coach at Dayton University, and after visiting Ohio and falling in love with the school, Nino packed his bags and headed east.
There, he reportedly wasted no time in showing off his talent. During his freshman year, Nino started all 17 games he appeared in, recording a total of 1 490 minutes. It didn’t come as a surprise when he was named Dayton Rookie of the Year at the end of the season.
In 2017, when asked about what kind of job he would want other than becoming a professional soccer player, he answered with another ambitious career.
“I would want to own my own business. It would be a clothing store, sportswear. Growing up with soccer your whole life, you hear a lot of people complaining about soccer cleats and stuff. For example, I cut my socks because I don’t like the way they feel,” he said.
Neither becoming a professional soccer player nor being a successful business owner are simple goals, but Nino reportedly finds the inspiration to dream big thanks to those close to him. Nino’s grandparents had a farm and his father, Joe Nino, would help out his family while also getting an education and doing after school activities.
“As a young kid, he would have to wake up really early in the morning to work in the fields,” Nino recounted. He then would have to ride a bike to school.
He would do two or three hours of football practice and then come back to work in the fields.