Mali player Mahamadou Diarra attends a training session on January 17, 2010 Photo: AFP)
Mali skipper Mahamadou Diarra expresses great joy to return to his national team after a year of absence.
The Fulham midfielder is due to lead The Eagles in their African Nations Cup qualifier against Botswana in Bamako on Saturday.
"I am definitely happy to be back, playing on a big stage. To be on the national team is a dream come true," Diarra told Sky Sports late on Friday.
"Bostwana are a good team and we will try to get an advantage in the first game," he added.
Diarra has not played for Mali since June. He was not selected initially because he did not have a club and was not playing regular football.
The 31-year-old player missed January's Nations Cup finals in Equatorial Guinea and Gabon where Mali finished a surprise third.
The recent return of the former Real Madrid hard man to regular action at Craven Cottage has earned him a recall from new Mali coach Patrick Carteron, who takes charge for the first time in the final round, first leg qualifier for the 2013 finals in South Africa.
Whether he will wear the captain's armband in Saturday's match is not an issue for Diarra, who capped 64 times for Mali.
"To be honest, I am just happy to be back playing," the veteran midfilder admitted.
"[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," he concluded.
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