Warriors debut excites Darikwa

HARARE - Nottingham Forest defender Tendayi Darikwa (pictured) was an elated man after making his Warriors debut in an international friendly match against Lesotho in Maseru on Wednesday evening.

The Great Britain-based trio of Darikwa, Kundai Benyu of Glasgow Celtic and Leyton Orient striker Macauley Bonne were handed their first starts for Zimbabwe against the Crocodiles at the Sesotho Stadium in Maseru.

Leicester City’s Admiral Muskwe was introduced as a second half substitute in the match the Warriors lost 1-0 after Lesotho scored in stoppage time through Tumelo Khutlang.

For a long time now, the Zimbabwe Football Association (Zifa) has been trying to lure a number of foreign-based stars plying their trade all over Europe especially England where there is a significant Zimbabwean population.

Bonne was the first to express interest to play for Zimbabwe when he travelled to Morocco to represent the Young Warriors in an international friendly against the Atlas Lions in 2014.

Since then, the forward has not been able to represent the Warriors due to complications with his Zimbabwean passport.

Zifa has in recent months intensified their bid to lure these England-based stars with Bonne, Darikwa, Muskwe and Benyu arriving in the country at the start of the week.

The quartet all put in impressive performances for the Warriors on Wednesday night which left Darikwa confident that the national team has a bright future despite the defeat.

“It was a special feeling obviously representing my country, my first international cap, unfortunately we didn’t get the result but I have a feeling that we will go to Namibia on Saturday and put that right,” Darikwa told the Daily News from Maseru.

“The performance of the team, I thought we played quite well and we could have gone to half-time ahead but sometimes in football you don’t always get your rewards even when you play well.

“We are obviously disappointed but hopefully we can put it right at the weekend.”

Darikwa added: “I think the future of Zimbabwean football looks bright for me. There are some very good players who still got a lot of years ahead of them. I think there might be few more coming through this system, maybe a few or more overseas players might decide to join us.

“My feeling is it’s going to be quite interesting in the next few years and hopefully we can progress and put ourselves on the world stage.”

Darikwa was raised in Nottingham, United Kingdom but qualifies to play for Zimbabwe through his father.

The 25-year old joined Forest for £2m in the summer from Premier League side Burnley.

Warriors’ team manager Wellington Mpandare was also impressed by the new players’ performances.

“It was a very good game, we had chances, we could have scored three or four goals but unfortunately we missed them and we were duly punished for it in the last few minutes of the game,” Mpandare said.

“I believe if some of the players like Knowledge Musona, Khama Billiat and Costa Nhamoinesu join the team, we will have a formidable side.”

The Warriors were expected in the country last night en route to Namibia for their second friendly international against the Brave Warriors tomorrow.

Zimbabwe is using the two international friendly matches to prepare for next year’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) Group G qualifiers which resume in March with a trip to Congo.

The Warriors are currently in pole position in the group following a convincing 3-0 home win over Liberia in June at the National Sports Stadium.

DR Congo, are in second place following a 3-1 win over Congo in their first game.

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