Robson Sharuko Senior Sports Editor
TENDAYI DARIKWA had a culture shock when his grandmother clapped her hands to show her respect in greeting him when he visited Zimbabwe for the first time in November last year.
He didn’t know how to respond to the gesture and ended up asking the official who had facilitated his trip to this country to provide him with guidance.
Darikwa (26) was born in Nottingham, England, to Zimbabwean parents, and had never been to his homeland until he arrived in Harare eight months ago in the company of two other members of the British Brigade — Admiral Muskwe and Macauley Bonne.
The trio came home to join the Warriors ahead of two friendly internationals against Lesotho and Namibia.
Darikwa, who now plays for two-time European champions Nottingham Forest in the English Championship, the second-tier league football in that country after moving from Premiership side Burnley in July last year, is one of the foreign-based players who have been targeted to strengthen the Warriors ahead of the resumption of 2019 AFCON qualifiers in September.
The defender was called by coach Sunday Chidzambwa for the COSAFA Cup campaign but could not join the Warriors because his documents, which would have enabled him to get a Zimbabwean passport to be eligible for the regional tournament, were not processed in time.
A number of African national teams have been tapping into their Diaspora talent to strengthen their teams with the Teranga Lions of Senegal leading the way and recruiting a number of players who were born in France but have their roots in the West African country.
Marshall Gore, the chief executive of Team Zimbabwe United Kingdom, has been leading the way — working in conjunction with ZIFA officials and Warriors team manager Wellington Mpandare — to try and broaden the base from which Chidzambwa can pick his team, with a number of players with Zimbabwean roots, who were born in Europe, being targeted.
Gore told The Herald there was need for this country’s football leaders to pursue an aggressive policy that will woo scores of talented footballers, who have roots in Zimbabwe but are based in the Diaspora, to come and play for the Warriors as a way of strengthening the national team.
‘’We have to be aggressive because our com-
petitors are doing just that and you have already seen Cote d’Ivoire taking Wilfred Zaha, who played for the English youth national teams, into their fold to play for their senior team and there are a lot of other countries who are doing that,” said Gore.
“We have to make the move and make these boys feel that we really want them to come and play for us because if we don’t do that, there is a danger these guys end up being disconnected from us because we should not expect them to just wake up saying that I want to play for Zimbabwe.
“We have to reach out to them because these guys have grown up in a different system and different way of life and we have to make them understand that there is a lot for them to gain from coming down to play for the Warriors and some of the perceptions they might be having about our country are not true.
“I can tell you that a person like Tendai Darikwa was not even aware that we have a 60 000-seater National Sports Stadium in Harare and he had this culture shock just seeing his grandmother greeting him by clapping hands, as a show of respect to him and he didn’t even know how to respond he had to call me and ask what should be done.
‘’These things might look as simple, but they are important and we have to ensure that we build a bridge with these guys and make them appreciate that we really want to have them to be part of what we want to achieve and I can tell you they will make a difference in a big way.”
Darikwa told our sister newspaper, The Sunday Mail, on his first visit to Harare in November last year that he was bowled out by the beauty of the capital.
“As the bus drove from the Airport to this place, I could only marvel at the view. I didn’t know Harare was this beautiful,’’ he said.
“We always hear a lot of stories about our fatherland and to be honest the picture I had when I came here is way different from what I saw.
“This land is my blood and I need to identify with everything about my nation. I ate sadza for the first time and loved the taste.”
Gore said harnessing migrant talent was now the in-thing in football.
“The recent World Cup victory by France in Russia 2018 confirms the theory that migrant football talents are an asset to many countries if they are well nurtured and accommodated and one can say France is reaping the benefits of good immigration, integration and consistent grassroots football development,’’ said Gore.
‘’The Moroccans and the Algerians have mastered this very well. They both appeared at the last two World Cup finals using squads of almost 90 percent footballers from the Diaspora.
“It takes a bold commitment to accept that your national team can be represented with players born abroad or who have lived away from home for a very long time.
‘’This is now part of globalisation as the world continues to integrate and present opportunities for those that harness migration as a tool for development.
“Over the last seven years, I found from my research that Zimbabwean football is also perfectly placed to capitalise on some of the golden opportunities presented by migration which may enable our national team to achieve the dream of qualifying and playing at the World Cup.”
Gore said there was need to change the way the country viewed its Diaspora talent.
“I have spent the last 23 years of my life living as a Diasporan, nothing has changed inside me. I miss home and still love my country and the same can be said for our migrant football players, they’re all Zimbabweans like us. We must do our best to reach out to them.
“My experience of establishing and leading Team Zimbabwe UK the vehicle that is leading Zimbabwe Diaspora football talent hunt has taught me many lessons about football and humanity.
“After spending several weeks negotiating with Tendayi Darikwa, Macaulay Bonne, Brendan Galloway and others to come and play for Zimbabwe, I found out we take a lot of things for granted.
“First, we must reach out to the players wholeheartedly. Secondly we must integrate the players into our communities and thirdly we must accommodate the players with a lot of warmth and love.’’