Luton Town attacker Admiral Muskwe has described his upcoming Africa Cup of Nations debut for Zimbabwe as a ‘huge honour’ for both himself and his family.
The Hatters forward, who was born in Harare, moving to England as a three-year-old, has made a handful of appearances for his country in the past, scoring once in a World Cup qualifier against Somalia in September 2019, although this will be his first appearance since then due to Covid restrictions.
He flew out this week to join up with the rest of his Warriors teammates in Cameroon for the competition which begins on Sunday when the hosts face Burkina Faso.
Speaking ahead of his flight, Muskwe said: “I’m very excited, it’s a huge honour for myself and my family and I’m looking forward to the whole experience.
“I’ve played a few games in the past, but when the whole world kind of stopped, I guess international football came to a stop, so this will be my first time playing for them in about two years, so I’m really looking forward to it.
“As a young boy you always dream about playing in a major tournament, playing for your country is a huge honour, especially being able to do it at such a prestigious tournament like the Africa Cup of Nations.
“It’s something which I’ve always wanted to do it and now I’m going to get the opportunity to do so.
“As a player it’s an amazing honour, I wouldn’t want to talk about what other people have to say about the competition, but personally, what I stand by, is every major tournament in football is a huge honour, they’re all on a par with each other.
“So I’m going to be very happy to be going out there and playing in the Africa Cup of Nations, I hope, and I envisage every other player that is going out there will be.”
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Growing up, it was a tournament that Muskwe had always wanted to be involved in, particularly having watched some of the best players from all over the world grace the tournament.
He continued: “It’s played in January most of the time, so that January period every two years I’m always tuning in, always watching.
“I always remember the greatest teams which were the Ivory Coast teams which would have had the (Didier) Drogbas, the (Yaya and Kolo) Toures, those sorts of players.
“Then in recent times you’ve got Mo Salah, (Sadio) Mane, Riyad (Mahrez), so there was always high calibre players and it’s been a good standard of football.
“It was always something I’ve watched and when Zimbabwe played in it in the past, I remember watching my nation play, so it’s something I’ve always watched and been keen on.
“You’ve got players from the best leagues in the world and they’re all coming together to play in one tournament so it’s going to be a good experience that’s for sure.
“It always is, every time I’ve watched it it’s always been exciting football, end-to-end, it’s a good showcase of football in Africa and football in general.”
There was a chance once that Muskwe might have missed the opportunity to feature for Zimbabwe, having turned out for England during his younger days, representing them at U16s and U17s level.
Playing alongside a certain Harry Kane, the attacker featured in the 2014 Nordic U17 Football Championship, scoring once in the 5-1 win over Finland, as the Three Lions finished fourth.
However, once the Warriors came calling, there was only one country for Muskwe, as he said: “I played England U16s and U17s, which was a huge honour as well, a great privilege for me and my family.
“Then I think when I was 18, 19, Zimbabwe called, so it was a decision I had to make and I think just playing for the motherland, I’ve always had it in the back of my mind.
“I’m very honoured to be playing for my country, so literally when they called me up the first time, it was a no-brainer for me really.
It can’t get much harder for Muskwe and his Zimbabwe team-mates as they kick off their Group B with a contest against one of the tournament firm favourites Senegal, whose squad is bursting with talent, including Liverpool attacker Sadio Mane, Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy, plus Paris Saint-Germain duo Abdou Diallo and Idrissa Gana Gueye.
Muskwe continued: “The Senegal game is going to be a good game, going to get the likes of Mane and Mendy, so it’s going to be a tough game, but obviously we’ll try our best and see what we can get out of it.
“It doesn’t get much tougher than that, but it’s definitely one I’m excited about and looking forward to playing in, that’s for sure and we’ll try and get things off to a good start.”
Zimbabwe, currently ranked 121st in the FIFA rankings, and in their third consecutive AFCON tournament, did finish fourth back in 2014 after a penalty shoot-out defeat to Libya in the semi-finals.
They also take on Malawi (129th) and Guinea (81st) in the group stages, with Muskwe fully expecting them to be featuring in the round of 16 that starts on January 23.
He added: “I’d like to say our chances are definitely high of getting out of the group.
“The top two go through and then from the various other groups, there’s also third-best losers, they also go through to the round of 16.
“So I’m very confident and optimistic that we’ll definitely get through our group.”