Mahamadou Diarra delighted at Mali return

Mahamadou Diarra
© PA Photos
Fulham midfielder Mahamadou Diarra is delighted with his return to the Mali squad after over a year out.

Fulham midfielder Mahamadou Diarra has expressed his delight at making his return to the international setup with Mali.

Diarra has not played for his country for over a year due to a lack of regular football at club level, but has been recalled by new coach Patrick Carteron.

Carteron has also handed Diarra the captain's armband for his side's African Nations Cup qualifier against Botswana on Saturday, but the 31-year-old insists that being skipper will not change the way he plays.

"I am definitely happy to be back playing on a big stage. To be in the national team is a dream come true. Botswana are a good team and we will try to get an advantage in the first game," said Diarra.

"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."

Diarra made his debut for the Mali national team in 2001, winning 64 caps and scoring six goals for his country in that time.

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