LIVING A DREAM . . . Bright prospects for British Brigade as Darikwa relishes debut

NOTTINGHAM Forest defender Tendayi Darikwa was over the moon after being issued with a Zimbabwean passport and revealed that he was so eager to play for his country that he can’t wait for the task.

Darikwa first got a feel of playing for the Warriors when he featured for the national team in friendly matches against Lesotho and Namibia when the senior side were under the interim guidance of ZIFA Technical Director Wilson Mutekede.

But the 26-year-old defender needed a Zimbabwean passport in order to be eligible to play for the Warriors in competitive matches such as the African Cup of Nations and World Cup qualifiers.

Darikwa becomes the first of the British-based players who include the likes of McCauley Bonne, Adam Chicksen, Kundai Benyu, Tristan Nydam and German-based striker Kelvin Lunga to regularise his documents and become eligible to play for Zimbabwe.

CEFN Druids defender Alec Mudimu was the first of the British Brigade to play for the Warriors as he was always a Zimbabwean passport holder, with coach Sunday Chidzambwa including him in the squad that retained the COSAFA Cup in Polokwane in June.

Darikwa had provisionally been included in the 23-man side that has been picked for the back-to-back Nations Cup Group G qualifiers against the Democratic Republic of Congo on October 13 and October 16.

But after team manager Wellington Mpandare picked his passport at the Registrar-General’s Office, Darikwa is now in line to take his bow in the Nations Cup qualifiers as the development paves the way for his availability for selection.

Coach Sunday Chidzambwa has already strongly hinted that he would want Darikwa to play at right back and resolve the challenges his Warriors have been having on that side of their defence.

Darikwa, in an exclusive interview with The Herald, yesterday spoke of his eagerness to play for the Warriors in an official international.

“I am very excited and I cannot wait to travel to Zimbabwe. These are crucial games (against the DRC) because we have to get at least four points from these two matches.

“We have to qualify for the African Cup of Nations finals so we cannot afford to lose any of these two games. Everything is sorted and I will be travelling to Zimbabwe next weekend,” Darikwa said.

A number of the Europe-based players have availed themselves for national team duty but they have encountered complexities in trying to get passports.

The Government has, however, since stepped in to facilitate the issuance of the passports for all the players who have all their documentation in place with Mpandare urging them to visit the Zimbabwean embassies in their respective countries to get assistance.

ZIFA representative in the United Kingdom, Marshall Gore, said the issuance of Darikwa’s Zimbabwean passport would make easier his job of luring more players in the Diaspora to turn out of their country.

“This is good news for us. It has been a long and winding journey, but am happy that our efforts have come to fruition. There were a number of hurdles, but we got support from senior Government officials such as the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sibusiso Moyo, and the officials at the Zimbabwean Embassy in London,” said Gore, who is also the chief executive of Team Zimbabwe UK.

“It is only a matter of time before Adam (Chicksen) gets his passport. I have just been in touch with Bonne and am sure we will be going to the Zimbabwean Embassy soon. I am happy with the relationship that we have forged with Nottingham Forest.

“We are going to do the same with all the clubs that have Zimbabwean players,” Gore said.

Gore also said he would soon begin talks with Arsenal starlet Reiss Nelson with a view to persuading him to play for Zimbabwe.

He said he would soon visit players with Zimbabwean origin across Europe, not only to convince them to play for the Warriors, but also to have their clubs tour Zimbabwe.

“We are now moving into the third stage of persuading teams that have Zimbabweans to tour the country. This is my task between November and March next year. We have to market our country. I will also visit players such as Knowledge Musona and Marvellous Nakamba between November and March.

“We need to encourage these teams to visit Zimbabwe. We want a situation whereby Nakamba’s team Club Brugge or Knowledge Musona’s Anderlecht or Nottingham Forest tour Zimbabwe. Manchester United visit countries like South Korea and this helps their brand,” Gore said.

And Phillip Zulu, a UK-based Zimbabwean coach who has also been championing for the players living in the Diaspora who have their roots in Zimbabwe to play for the Warriors, was also delighted that Darikwa is finally eligible to turn out for the Warriors in official international matches.

“Long journey indeed Mashie (Marshall Gore), all our efforts have been rewarded finally. Go Warrior Go,” Zulu wrote on his Facebook wall yesterday.

Meanwhile, ZIFA communications and competitions manager Xolisani Gwesela said they had put all the logistics to ensure the Warriors have a short but smooth camp in Harare before flying out to the DRC.

“The players should arrive in camp on 7 October and departure for DRC is scheduled for 9 October but I can happily confirm that all is in place for a short but smooth camp for this latest assignments.

“We have been liaising with our travel agents to ensure that all foreign-based players are in the country on time,’’ Gwesela said.

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