By Godknows Matarutse
Nottingham Forrest defender Tendayi Darikwa says he will bring “hard work and passion” to help the Warriors qualify for the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) finals after arriving in the country.
The right back is finally set to make his competitive debut for Zimbabwe when the Warriors travel to Kinshasa to face the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) this weekend in a top-of-the-table Group G encounter.
The Warriors, who sit top of the group with four points, will not have much time to recuperate as they are set to host the Leopards at the National Sports Stadium on October 16.
Darikwa, who was born in England to parents with a Zimbabwean heritage, was initially included in the Warriors’ squad for last month’s game against Congo which ended in a 1-1 draw in Brazzaville before he was excluded at the 11th hour after attempts to regularise his citizenship failed to materialise.
The 26-year-old defender featured for the Warriors in friendly matches against Lesotho and Namibia last year but needed a Zimbabwean passport to make him eligible for competitive matches such as Afcon qualifiers.
He was granted his Zimbabwean passport recently making him eligible to play for the country.
The defender, who plays his football in the English Championship, is already eager to make his competitive debut for the Warriors.
“(I will bring) hard work and passion and I think especially when the fans see me in the home game on Tuesday, they will see my passion and they will see I’m here to represent and to try and contribute going forward,” Darikwa told reporters yesterday.
“Finally, I’m here now and it’s all about improving the team moving forward and hopefully we qualify for Afcon, then we take it from there.”
Darikwa admitted he endured a frustrating period as he waited for his citizenship to be regularised.
“It’s good to be back, it’s been a long time, and a lot of paper work had to go through,” the former Burnley defender said.
“I finally got my passport and I look forward to the games, the one on Saturday away and on Tuesday (next week) at home.
“I’m just excited to get going; obviously the two previous matches I played were friendlies but now it’s important to come and help the team qualify for Afcon, that’s the target.”
The Warriors will have a morning training session today (Tuesday) at the National Sports Stadium before leaving the country at 5pm aboard a South African Airways flight.
From the players called to do duty ahead of the crucial back-to-back encounters only Belgium-based duo of Knowledge Musona and Marvellous Nakamba had not arrived by Monday.
South African-based left back Devine Lunga has since been dropped after picking up an injury while playing for Golden Arrows at the weekend.
Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare said: “We will have our first training session tomorrow morning (today) before leaving for DRC around 5pm via Jo’burg and expect to be in DRC at 11pm in the evening.
“We will then train there on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday. We will play our game Saturday evening and immediately after the match we are boarding back to Zimbabwe and we will arrive on Sunday afternoon.
“We have one injury worry in the form of Lunga but we are not calling any replacement, remember we have called in 23 players and we will get our replacement from there.”
Goalkeepers: George Chigova (Polokwane City), Donovan Bernard (Ngezi Platinum Stars), Edmore Sibanda (Witbank Spurs)
Defenders: Tendayi Darikwa (Nottingham Forest), Alec Mudimu (CEFN Druids AFC), T Ronald Pfumbidzai (Bloemfontein Celtics), Teenage Hadebe (Kaizer Chiefs), Kevin Moyo (FC Platinum), Eric Chipeta (Cape Umoya United), Byron Madzokere (Yadah FC)
Midfielders: Marshal Munetsi (Orlando Pirates), Tafadzwa Kutinyu (Azam FC), Danny Phiri (Golden Arrows), Richard Hachiro (Herentals), Leeroy Mavhunga (Yadah FC), Ovidy Karuru (AmaZulu), Marvellous Nakamba (Club Brugge)
Strikers: Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs), Talent Chawapihwa (Baroka FC), Knowledge Musona (Anderlecht), Evans Rusike (SuperSport United), Knox Mutizwa (Golden Arrows). Daily News