Darikwa overcomes career-ending injury

HARARE – Warriors star defender Tendayi Darikwa, pictured, says he is happy to be finally back in full training with his English Championship side Nottingham Forest nine months after suffering a knee injury.

The defender, who featured for Zimbabwe at the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) final in Egypt last July, ruptured his anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) in pre-season with Forrest towards the end of last July.

Since then, he had not featured in any league game for the Reds in the 2019-2020 campaign as he had to undergo surgery to repair the ligament and physiotherapy.

Rupturing an ACL is the nightmare of injuries any footballer can suffer due to the delicate surgery required to rejoin the ligaments and the prolonged rehabilitation period before one returns to action.

In most cases, it can take up to at least 12 months before a footballer finally recovers from such a serious injury.

Most footballers that have suffered ACL injuries have had their careers ended but luckily for the 28-year-old defender, he has been on the sidelines for only nine months and is ready to play again.

The global spread of the coronavirus (Covid-19) has also given Darikwa a chance to feature for the Reds this season which was highly-improbable at the time he was injured.

When football was halted in England due to coronavirus on March 13, Forest were in a play-off place in fifth place and trailed leaders Leeds United by 15 points.

With clubs in England now allowed to return to training under strict health guidelines, Darikwa for the first time since last August was able to join his teammates on the pitch on Monday at Wilford Lane.

“Good to be back!” the 27-year-old said on Twitter yesterday.

In a recent interview with the Nottingham Post, Darikwa explained the process he was going through in order get back to full fitness.

“It’s a long-term injury, so it’s slow progress. But I’m happy that I am making progress. The main thing is just to stay focused on the rehab — do everything that the doctors and the physios are telling me to do,” he said.

“But I’m hopeful, with a bit of good luck and a lot of hard work, I might get lucky and play a few games.

“I’m just trying to build the muscle back up in my leg, because I wasn’t able to put pressure on my leg for a good few weeks. I’ve been back in the gym, back on the bike and doing a lot of strength work at the minute.”

Darikwa, who was born to Zimbabwean parents in England, feels the injury came about after he returned early to pre-season.

After having represented Zimbabwe at the Afcon in June, the defender should have taken an extended off-season but returned early to Wilford Lane in the hope of impressing coach Sabri Lamouchi.

“It was disappointing. It hurt me a lot,” Darikwa said. “Any footballer will tell you that they just want to play football week in, week out. It happened at a bad time, just before the start of the season.

“But the surgery went well and I’m just looking forward now, to making my return. I’ve not properly had the chance to show him (Lamouchi) what I can do.

“After a long summer, I came back early. In hindsight, that might not have been the right thing to do, but these things happen in football.

“The manager has been great with me. I see him every day at the training ground and he’s just said, ‘focus on your rehab and come back strong, then take things from there’.”

Darikwa signed for Forest in 2017 after spending two seasons with English Premier League side Burnley and feels at home at Wilford Lane.

“I’ve been at Forest for a good few years now and have played with a lot of the boys — although we’ve got a lot of new faces,” he said.

“I’m at the training ground everyday, so I’m still in the dressing room with the lads and things like that.”

Following the first round of mass Covid-19 testing among second tier clubs, Forest and the rest of the other clubs hope to resume their season next month.

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