Zakuani turns focus from Championship to charity

Gabriel Zakuani

Gabriel Zakuani's club future may be up in the air but the DR Congo defender will have other matters on his mind this weekend.

After Peterborough United's relegation for the Championship was confirmed on the final day of the season, the 26-year-old former Fulham defender has signalled his intention to leave London Road after rejecting the offer of a new three-year deal last week.

Having made his international comeback at the the 2013 African Nations Cup in South Africa, Zakuani is now hoping to prolong his stay in England and will make a decision on his future in the coming weeks.

Before that, though, he will be join a host of players including Liverpool's Raheem Sterling, Arsenal and Ghana midfielder Emmanuel Frimpong and former Bolton player Fabrice Muamba who will take part in the iPAY2PLAY at Wembley's Ark Academy.

The project - which has involved members of the public bidding for the chance to take on a team of pros - has been set up by Zakuani and former player Papa Agyemang.

The duo are set to travel to Ghana next month to visit projects that have been set up by the charity and distribute football equipment.

"We will be giving football kits that I've been collecting in the past year," Zakuani told BBC Sport.

"A lot of generous people have donated things they no longer need - in Ghana this will be appreciated greatly. I will also be helping to coach kids and pass on my experience in the game.

"I'm an African player they can hopefully look up to but the main thing is we all have fun because there's nothing better than smiling kids. This is a great way of raising money and helping less privileged people."

Born in Kinshasha, Zakuani arrived in England as a child and came through Leyton Orient's youth academy before moving to Fulham for £1m in July 2006. By then he had already made his international debut for DR Congo but he had to wait seven years for his second cap.

Now, with Congo facing crucial matches against Cameroon and Libya next month as they try to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1974, Zakuani is hoping he can be a part of that dream.

He said: "Our chances of making Brazil 2014 are very good but we need to win our next two games which I believe we are capable of.

"I loved every minute of being in the DR Congo squad at the African Nations Cup in South Africa and I hope I've done enough to stay in there. I'm now a starter and in the coach's first-choice pairing in central defence so I hope I will continue as I've worked very hard."

A heartbreaking 3-2 loss to a Crystal Palace side featuring his Congo team-mate Yannick Bolasie saw Peterborough's return to League One confirmed despite a record number of points for a relegated team.

Zakuani now believes it is time to move on to ensure he can retain his place in the national team.

"I've enjoyed five great years here now it's just about waiting to see what happens," he said.

"It's always disappointing to be relegated, like all the boys I'm gutted. I'm the club's longest serving player and Peterborough means so much to me, but so does my country and I need to give myself the best chance of being selected."

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