Way back in September, I wrote a piece on this column my son Tupochele and I were watching this year’s Cosafa Women’s Football Championship that took place in Bulawayo, Zimbabwe when I got a very good question from my son as we watched the group qualifying round match between Malawi and Zambia.
He had asked where and how Malawian players are chosen to represent Malawi because, he had said, he had never seen women play the beautiful game competitively here.
He had observed that the Malawian girls were playing very good football, showing that they do showcase their talent elsewhere here where they are spotted and drafted into the national team — but where do they play competitively in order to be noticed they are that good? — he had asked.
A tough question but a very good observation. Today, I also was wondering how Malawi’s first women’s football export Tabitha Chawinga was spotted to go to Europe and play for Swedish lowly ranked Kvanrsveden where she created a storm by continuing being her team’s top goal scorer.
The media here covered well her exploits in Sweden but still most Malawians were not that keen on her until she pitched up to represent Malawi at the 2017 Cosafa Women’s Football Championship in Bulawayo.
There she scored stunning goals with two hat-tricks — first in the 3-6 loss to Zambia and the second plus one in the 6-3 win over Madagascar. She ended up winning the Golden Boot of the tournament.
Following her exploits at the Cosafa as well as scoring a staggering 22 goals in 26 matches in the Swedish Women’s League, Tabitha was voted Best Forward of the Year during the Swedish football awards gala held last week.
And she beat that country’s best women’s football player Lieke Martens, who plies her trade in France for Montpellier’s Stina Blackstenus. Martens is no ordinary striker — she was voted as this year FIFA World Player of the Year.
The award, at the expense of Martens, also shows that Tabitha is also not an ordinary player and it is for that reason that Confederation of African Football (CAF) have nominated her for consideration for the award of the African Women’s Player of the Year.
There are five nominees—Tabitha, Asisat Oshoala from Nigeria, Chrestina Kgatlana from South Africa, Gabrielle Aboudi Onguene from Cameroon and Rutendo Makore from Zimbabwe — three from Cosafa region and two from West Africa.
For the Swedish awards, Tabitha was also nominated for the Most Valuable Player accolade but won by Filippa Angeldahl who plays for that country’s Hammarbys. And she has become the second African to win the Swedish Best Forward award after former African Women’s Player of the Year Gaelle Enganamou.
As we all know, winning such awards is never a mean achievement. There are many football technical experts who analyse the achievements of such players.
For the ACF awards, which are considered very prestigious just like elsewhere, the deciders through votes on who was the best in African football are members of the CAF Technical and Development Committee, CAF Media Experts Panel and Independent Media and TV Consultants.
Should Tabitha be voted as African Women Player of the Year, we should all be proud of her and consider it as a national honour. If she does not make it, we still owe her our pride and respect that she has raised the Malawian flag very high.
We are known as a nation by very negative news and we all know that after what Tabitha has achieved in Sweden and if she shall win the prestigious CAF award, people out there will be asking “where is Malawi” and the answer is definitely; “it’s that Cashgate African country”.
Not something we are proud of but it’s something that can be erased easily if we keep breeding athletes like Tabitha and others.
It’s the same with our star netballer, Mwawi Kumwenda — the first netball player export out of this country and we are proud of her because she is a household name in Australia where she plies her trade.
Her exploits saw her being voted for the prestigious International World Games Association (IWGA) 2015 Athlete of the Year award.
And also in the same year, Mwawi replaced former English Premier League’s Manchester City and Cote d’Ivoire’s international player Yaya Toure as Airtel Africa as the new brand ambassador.
The celebrated netball icon plies her trade with Auckland Tactix in New Zealand.
Mwawi was originally spotted by Australia’s Peninsula Waves whilst with the junior national team during the 2009 Netball World Youth Cup where she was one of the tournament’s prolific shooter.
In the 2014, ANZ Championship season, Mwawi amassed more goals than any shooter in the competition and won the ANZ Championship’s Best New Talent award along with other awards from the club.
Thanks to these two, our young athletes out there can get the inspiration to take sports seriously because it has its rewards if they can work very hard to get to where Tabitha and Mwawi have reached.
Congratulations to Tabitha, you have made us proud.
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