Warriors defender, Tendayi Darikwa, has pledged his commitment to Zimbabwe after a brilliant show in back-to-back African Cup of Nations (Afcon) qualifiers against the DRC.
Darikwa, who plays for two-time European champions Nottingham Forest based in England, made his competitive debut for the Warriors last weekend.
The Warriors won the crucial encounter 2 – 1 away in Kinshasa, before being held in Harare to a 1-all draw by the same opponents on Tuesday night.
Darikwa also played the full 90 minutes on Tuesday night, and is looking forward to use his European experience to drive the Warriors to Cameroon next year. Cameroon are the hosts of Afcon 2019.
Speaking after a one-all draw at the National Sports Stadium this week, Darikwa said: “I am a Zimbabwean. I always made it clear that I wanted to represent my country.
‘‘We might be living in different worlds (Europe and Africa) but the football language is the same. All I want is to use my experience and exposure to benefit the team.
“I am looking forward to do the best for the nation, to improve from where we were and to be a formidable force. I believe that influential leaders help inspire the commitment of team members to meet goals and results.
“Influential players also help manage change in the dressing room, training and camping, by gaining the confidence of teammates through effective decision-making and communication.”
Darikwa said if one needs to be a team player, they must respect teammates.
He said a respectful team empowers each other by encouraging hard work to offer ideas. The 26-year-old defender was born in Nottingham, England, to Zimbabwean parents, and had never been to his homeland.
A number of African national teams have been tapping into their Diaspora talent to strengthen their teams and Darikwa was one of the foreign-based players who have strengthened the Warriors in 2019 Afcon qualifiers.
He had previously been allowed to feature for the Warriors in friendlies, but finally secured a Zimbabwean passport that allowed him to take part in competitive matches.
Prior to back-to-back games, Darikwa has spoken about how he is looking forward to interacting with Warriors’ fans.
“It’s good to be back in Zimbabwe and the fans are awesome. It’s been a long time and a lot of paperwork had to be done. This land is my blood and I need to identify with everything about my nation,” said Darikwa.
Warriors will be away to play Liberia in Monrovia on November 16 before tackling Congo Brazzaville in March next year.
Darikwa said “as long everything is in place”, he will strive to represent his country.
“The goal is to participate at Afcon (2019) and we must achieve that,” he said.
Warriors’ coach Sunday “Mhofu” Chidzambwa heaped praises on Darikwa.
“He is an effective team leader who has a variety of traits and characteristics that encourage team members to follow him. It was easy for him to gel with teammates. A team leader naturally possesses certain qualities, such as integrity. He has been helpful to our back-line. The qualities of an effective team leader inspire the trust and respect of the team and he has proved to be an important player,” said Chidzambwa.
The Confederation of African Football (CAF) executive committee resolved last year that 24 teams will qualify to play in the final.
Cameroon have already qualified automatically by virtue of being hosts.
Under the new format, the best-placed team other than Cameroon would now qualify from Group B, while the group winners and runners-up would qualify from all other groups.