Fulham midfielder Mahamadou Diarra is happy to return to the international scene with Mali
Fulham's Mahamadou Diarra is delighted to be back with the Mali national team after a long spell away.
By Giscard Gourizro
Last Updated: 07/09/12 12:46pm
Diarra returns after a year's absence to lead his country in their African Nations Cup qualifier against Botswana in Bamako on Saturday.
The 31-year-old has not played for Mali since June 2011, after which he was not selected because he did not have a club and was not playing regular football following his exit from Monaco.
But after recovering from injuries which hindered a large chunk of his last campaign, Diarra has returned to regular action with the Cottagers, putting him on the radar of new Mali coach Patrick Carteron.
He told Sky Sports: "I am definitely happy to be back playing on a big stage. To be in the national team is a dream come true.
"Bostwana are a good team and we will try to get an advantage in the first game."
Asked about reclaiming the captain's armband for his country the midfielder, who has 64 caps, said: "To be honest I am just happy to be back playing.
"(It's not about) coming and taking the captain's armband. I am here to play for my people; people who have loved me and supported me throughout my career.
"The armband is not the most important thing. I have to defend and play for my country and try to qualify with them."