Why Wigan Athletic man put club before country
Tendayi Darikwa has explained his difficult decision to put club before country as Wigan Athletic fight for their League One lives.
The 29-year-old has played a key role at the back in recent weeks as Latics have kept three clean sheets in the last five matches.
That sequence has seen them pick up eight points over that period - only Fleetwood in the bottom half have more.
But he only played against Ipswich on Saturday after turning down an international call-up with Zimbabwe.
The matches he's missed are crucial qualifiers for this summer's African Cup of Nations, meaning it wasn't an easy call to make.
But given the prospect of missing a chunk of the relegation run-in - due to having to self-isolate in line with Covid protocol - Darikwa says Latics have to take priority.
“I had the option to go over to Zimbabwe and play the games, but having to quarantine when I came back," he said.
"And that would mean I’d miss a large chunk of games.
“The team and the club needs me, and it’s important I give the club everything.
"I’m here to play games for Wigan Athletic and, at the minute, club football comes first.”
Darikwa's played every minute of every game since joining Latics from Nottingham Forest in January.
Having not played at club level for the previous 18 months, it's a remarkable return to fitness - and form - for the ex-Burnley man.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been playing regular football," he acknowledged.
"But this is why I came here, to help the team and play football.
“I’m thankful to Leam (Richardson) and the staff that I’ve had opportunities to play on the pitch.
"And hopefully my performances can help the team and help the club stay in the division.
“When we all signed we were new to each other and sometimes that can be difficult.
"You have to build relationships and we haven’t had too much time to think about it, we have just gone out there and done our best.”
Latics are now just a single point adrift of safety with nine matches to go - starting on Wednesday at Gillingham.
“We’ve got more than enough to stay in the division," Darikwa added. "It’s about being consistent in our performances and our results.
“There’s nine big games to go and we have everything to play for.
"As players we have to go out on the pitch each week and give everything we have.
“It’s going to be a tough game on Wednesday, but we’ll go there in good spirits and we’ll bring energy and aim to come back with the three points.”
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