Fulham midfielder Mahamadou Diarra is happy to return to the international scene with Mali

Mahamadou Diarra: Enjoying being back on the international scene with Mali

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Fulham midfielder Mahamadou Diarra is delighted to be back in the national team set-up with Mali after a long spell away from international football.

Diarra returns after a year's absence to lead his country in their African Nations Cup qualifier against Botswana in Bamako on Saturday.

The 31-year-old has not played for Mali since June 2011, after which he was not selected because he did not have a club and was not playing regular football following his exit from Monaco.

But after recovering from injuries which hindered a large chunk of his last campaign, Diarra has returned to regular action with the Cottagers, putting him on the radar of new Mali coach Patrick Carteron.

He told Sky Sports: "I am definitely happy to be back playing on a big stage. To be in the national team is a dream come true.

"Bostwana are a good team and we will try to get an advantage in the first game."

Asked about reclaiming the captain's armband for his country the midfielder, who has 64 caps, said: "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."