WIGAN Athletic captain, Tendayi Darikwa, has excused himself from the Zimbabwe football national team ahead of the Africa Cup of Nations finals in Cameroon next month.

He becomes the team’s latest high-profile player to withdraw from the tournament.

Khama Billiat quit international football last month, while marshal Munetsi and Brenda Galloway are unavailable, through injury.

Many other experienced players were reportedly considering their participation at the Nations Cup finals.

They feel the challenges, which haunted them at the last AFCON finals in Egypt, have not yet been resolved.

Darikwa, in particular, believes the national team’s capacity to punch according to their weight has been undermined by the challenges which usually confront them whenever they are in camp.

H-Metro Sport gathered that Darikwa told Warriors general manager Wellington Mpandare, upon receiving an invitation for the tournament, that he will not be available due to what he called “personal reasons”.

Mpandare confirmed the news.

“Yes, Tendayi (Darikwa) was among the 40 players I sent invitations to their clubs requesting for their clearances ahead of the Afcon finals.

“I do not only send invitations to clubs but also speak to the players and he told me that he is not available for the Cameroon showdown.

“He said he is excusing himself for personal reason.”

The 2021 AFCON finals will run from January 9 to February 6 next year.

The Warriors, who have been drawn in Group B alongside Senegal, Malawi and Guinea, open their campaign with a match against the Teranga Lions of Senegal, on January 10.

Mpandare was asked to concentrate on certain players after consultations with coach Norman Mapeza, during the 2022 World Cup qualifiers.

The suspended ZIFA board had given Mapeza the responsibility to use the World Cup qualifiers as part of preparations for the Afcon showcase.

He said Darikwa’s absence was a huge blow

“It’s unfortunate that he said he won’t be available,” said Mpandare.

This would be a third consecutive time Darikwa has turned down, or withdrawn from international duty since his commitment in 2017.

The fullback pulled out of the Warriors camp, after the defeat away to Ghana, in a 2022 World Cup qualifier on October 9 this year, citing family commitments back in England.

He went on to miss the home fixture, against the Black Stars, three days later.

The former Nottingham Forest defender also snubbed another call-up for the matches against South Africa and Ethiopia last month.