HIS availability might still be uncertain due to the new stringent Covid-19 travel restrictions imposed by the British government but Warriors defender Tendayi Darikwa is relishing the opportunity to represent the country in the Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers against Botswana and Zambia next month.
Darikwa headlines the enlarged provisional squad of 38 players announced by Zimbabwe yesterday.
The squad which will be trimmed down in the build-up to the matches includes other England-based players such as Marvelous Nakamba (Aston Villa), Admiral Muskwe (Wycombe), Jordan Zemura (AFC Bournemouth) and Brendan Galloway (Luton Town).
Uncertainty however surrounds the availability of some England-based key players who are in the squad announced due to the stringent Covid-19 regulations enforced by British authorities for entrance into their country.
The United Kingdom have put 33 countries which they deem high risk areas in terms of coronavirus variants under a red list and Zimbabwe are included in that bracket. Darikwa, 29, however told Wigan Today yesterday that he was hoping to represent Zimbabwe on the biggest stage of all.
“The international stuff’s always in the back of my mind, and it’s always a massive buzz to play for my country,” he said.
“First and foremost I’ve got games to win here for Wigan, and I need to make sure I’m playing well for my club before I even think about anything else.
“But I also know there’s some big games coming up in March, where we can push on to quality for another major tournament, and I want to be part of that.”
Bizarrely, Darikwa’s last four appearances prior to joining Latics last month were all for Zimbabwe — including selection for the 2019 African Nations Cup.
His last outing in club colours was for Nottingham Forest back in March 2019, since when he was forced to miss 18 months with a serious knee injury.
Zimbabwe face Botswana on March 25 and Zambia four days later. Wigan Athletic, who are fighting against relegation from League Two, play Ipswich Town (27th) during that time.
Zifa had delayed announcing the squad while awaiting responses to requests for the release of players based in the UK a fortnight ago.
Warriors coach Zdravko Logarusic said the unusually huge list is influenced by uncertainty over the availability of some players due to injury and Covid-19 regulations in different parts of the globe.
“Usually, our list of players should be made up of 28 players, that is 3 goalkeepers and 25 infield players. We made it much bigger because we are facing a few [potential] problems,” Logarusic said.
“We don’t know what [the situation] will be in England, Spain and USA because some clubs have declined to release players because of the Covid-19 policies there.
Logarusic revealed that he was also worried over the availability of the injured duo of Khama Billiat and Knowledge Musona, who are hoping to have fully recovered in time for next month’s qualifiers.
France-based utility player Marshall Munetsi missed the previous qualifiers against Algeria but Logarusic is hoping he will be available for selection next month.
“We have problems with some injured regular players whom we used in our games against Algeria, especially Khama (Billiat), (Marshall) Munetsi and (Knowledge) Musona,” he said.
“We have more than 10 players whose availability is in doubt. We have to call up more players in case some test positive for Covid-19 in camp.We will select a team for the game against Botswana leaving some players in the country in case we lose some players before the game against Zambia,” the coach said.
Goalkeepers: Talbert Shumba (Nkana, Zambia); Tatenda Mkuruva (Michigan Stars, USA) Ariel Sibanda (Highlanders); Martin Mapisa (Zamora CF, Spain)
Defenders: Jordan Zemura (AFC Bournemouth, England); Jimmy Dzingai (Nkana, Zambia) Alec Mudimu (Ankaraspor, Turkey); Teenage Hadebe (Yeni Malatyaspor, Turkey); Divine Lunga (Lamontville Golden Arrows, SA); Tendai Jirira (Detroit City, USA); Tendayi Darikwa (Wigan Athletic, England); Brendan Galloway (Luton Town); Victor Kamhuka (Royal Malaysia Police, Malaysia); Romario Matova (NK Solin, Croatia); Peter Muduwa (Simba SC, Tanzania); Carlos Mavhurume (CAPS United); Shadreck Nyahwa (Bulawayo Chiefs)
Midfielders: Marshall Munetsi (Stade de Reims, France) Marvelous Nakamba (Aston Villa, England) Butholezwe Ncube (Amazulu, SA) Ovidy Karuru (Black Leopards, SA) Khama Billiat (Kaizer Chiefs, SA), Tafadzwa Rusike (Zesco United, Zambia) Brian Banda (FC Platinum); King Nadolo (Dynamos); Kudakwashe Mahachi (SuperSport United); Thabani Kamusoko (Zesco United, Zambia); Knowledge Musona (KAS Eupen, Belgium) Tatenda Tavengwa (Harare City); Tanaka Chinyahara (Red Arrows, Zambia)
Strikers: Terrence Dzvukamanja (Orlando Pirates, Zambia) Tinotenda Kadewere (Olympique Lyonnais, France) David Moyo (Hamilton Academical, Scotland); Admiral Muskwe (Wycombe Wanderers, England); Farau Matare (Bulawayo Chiefs); Knox Mutizwa (Lamontville Golden Arrows, SA), Evans Rusike (SuperSport United, SA); Prince Dube (Azam, Tanzania).