Sunday 06th February 2005

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Kwashi proves his loyalty to Dartford

TOSTAO KWASHI has spoken exclusively to www.kentishfootball.co.uk to reveal the reasons why he rejected a move to Nationwide Conference South neighbours Welling United, writes Stephen McCartney.

The 25-year-old Zimbabwean Dartford striker, lives in Swanscombe, which is only a short distance from where the Darts play their home matches at Gravesend & Northfleet's Stonebridge Road ground.

Scoring 17 goals for the Darts this season has attracted the Wing's attention and he was subject to a seven-day official approach in the past week, leading up to their important crunch derby - ironically at Park View Road - against Erith & Belvedere - one of four sides he turned down before this season started.

With fans fearing it was to be his last game in a Darts shirt, he decided on the eve of the game he was going to stay with the club, until the end of the season.

The game finished 1-1, which still gives the Darts a five point lead over the Deres, who remain inside the relegation zone in the Southern League Division One East table.

Kwashi came close to scoring the winner after 67 minutes from a 30-yard curling thunderbolt, which Deres goalkeeper Glen Knight managed to tip onto the crossbar.

Before arriving in the UK, the skilful entertainer, currently studying at Greenwich University, played for Swedish club Mjallby, whom he joined from Caps United in Zimbabwe.

He represented his country on nine occasions during the 1999-00 season.  After joining Gravesend & Northfleet at the beginning of the 2002-03 season, having spent the previous campaign with Fisher Athletic he moved to Dartford during last season following a very brief stop off at Margate.

But he has made Dartford his second home and his loyalty to the club and to chairman Dave Skinner has been second to none despite rejecting a very good offer from the Wings.

Kwashi explained: "I woke up on Thursday and Friday morning and I wanted to be here - I just followed my heart.

"It's not all about money in life.  Sometimes happiness is much more important than money," he insisted.

"I want to make money in life but I'll make it the right way - my motive is not all about money."

Kwashi's words are a breath of fresh air, especially in an era where players at all levels of the game are looking for more money.

He added: "I just love football.  I presume people like me and I just wanted to fight for Dartford and I don't want to jump the ship.

"I want to fight on and help the team stay in the league - that's how I am.

"I've never run away from a fight all my life and I've never jumped any ship when sinking.  So I don't want to start this week."

Kwashi was delighted with the point gained against their local rivals Erith & Belvedere in the clash near the bottom of the league.

Although the Deres remain in the relegation zone, five points behind the Darts, Great Wakering Rovers separate the two North Kent sides.

"Oh, I would have loved to have stolen the points with that one," he said of his 30-yard shot which struck the bar.

"Still, honours are even, we get a point and so do they.

"We're away from home, so we are happy with that."

Kwashi praised director/manager Tony Burman - in charge of his second game of his third spell in charge, following the recent resignation of Tommy Sampson.

"A great man - Tony Burman - he knows his football and knows how to preach the gospel.  He's a lovely bloke as well.  So are all the people at Dartford - the back room crew, the physio, the groundsman."

Kwashi has a close affection with the fans.  These are the people that turn up week in week out and still without a ground of their own - until next year - they are still the highest turned out in the entire division.

Dartford have an average of 245 and the division's highest gathering of 329 turned up to Stonebridge Road when Wingate & Finchley visited on 27th December.

Dartford's visit to Park View Road attracted the Deres highest gate of the season when 321 watched the 1-1 draw.

Kwashi said: "The fans have just been fantastic from day one, even when we haven't been doing well.

"They've kept on coming in, paying their money after a hard week from Monday to Friday, nine to five, going to work.

"They want to come on Saturday and get entertained by us and basically we have to try and give them back something - for all what they do for us.

"Without them we wouldn't be here so we have to give them so much respect because they are the best in the business."

Kwashi insisted the club will retain their Southern League status and will go from strength from strength once they are playing in their own stadium in Dartford.

"We are staying up.  We can look forward to the next season when we are going to have a new stadium.

"A lot of people have looked after me down here.  People like Dave Skinner, the chairman and Steve Irving and the board.  They have been fantastic, looking after me.

"The people at Dartford have been behind me ever since I've been here so my conscience said to me, "Tostao you need to give back to the people that have been looking after you, not just run away from them."

"People leave for the royalty and they don't have any loyalty - I am not like that!"

When using this article, please credit Stephen McCartney - www.kentishfootball.co.uk