As November drew to a close, the warm heart of Africa’s own footballer Tabitha Chawinga was named the Swedish Women’s Football Best Forward of the year.
The 21-year-old from Hewe Village, Traditional Authority (T/A) Katumbi in Rumphi, beat the reigning Fifa (Federation Internationale de Football Association) World Player of the Year Lieke Martens, the Lionel Messi of women’s football.
“Honestly, I did not expect it and it came as a huge surprise. But I guess winning the Swedish top league golden boot despite my club being relegated made the difference. This award means a lot to me. It is an honour that I will cherish for the rest of my life, especially considering the high profile players that I was up against.
“But I owe everything I have achieved to God. He is the one who provides me with the strength and inspiration and it is by His grace that I do well,” said the Rumphi born and bred football star.
Tabitha maintains that for her, this feat is not an excuse for relaxation, but will instead push her to work even harder to surpass her current level.
“I cannot say I am good enough because I have not reached where I want to be, yet,” said the third born in a family of five children.
The young star has also been nominated for the Confederation of African Football (CAF) women’s player of the year award which if she wins, will bring to five her international accolades since joining the Swedish lower league in 2014.
“I am at a loss for words to describe my happiness following this latest nomination. God is doing great things for me and I thank Him so much,” she said in an interview recently.
Tabitha joined the Swedish Club Kvarnsveden IK in 2014 from DD Sunshine and became an instant hit by winning the top scorer award.
She has now entered into a two-year-old deal with Jiangsu Sunning, a Chinese Elite Leaugue, having parted ways with Kvarnsveden IK where she has been for the past three years.
The star admits it is a big opportunity which will help her earn more money to support her family. She will join the Chinese Club in January 2018.
In an interview on Wednesday, Andrew Chikhosi, her coach from her former club DD Sunshine said it is amazing to see her soaring in her football career.
“We spotted her when she was younger and we saw the potential. She liked to play football with boys in Rumphi and we noted she had the qualities of a good football player; both in physique and in skill. We taught her to be disciplined, to follow coaches’ advice and ball controls- the finishing and the scoring. It is good to see her shining on the world arena,” he said.
The coach added that they will not stop there and will carry on building other women footballers.
“We want more girls to reach the heights that Tabitha has reached. They may not be like her, but they can at least get to where she is. We want more Malawians in European clubs,” he said.
Born on May 19 in 1996, the young achiever says she is inspired by Marta Vieira da Silva, the Brazilian footballer. She dreams of being just like her one day. That is what has pushed her to where she is.
“I have so many role models in football, but Marta from Brazil is my number one role model. I would like to be like her because she plays well. I am sure one day I will get there,” she affirms.
The young woman called on women soccer administrators to strive at improving women soccer because there is a lot of talent.
“They can improve talent from grassroots to national teams. In terms of talent, Malawians are really good. They just lack nurturing and the exposure,” she argues.
Looking ahead, the young woman, who prefers being the centre forward in a match, says she would like to remain in the football field even when she grows up, probably as a coach or administrator.
Tabitha was born with an innate affection for football. She acquired the skill naturally. She was among the pioneers of women’s football in the country.
“I liked to play football with boys from my neighbourhood in Rumphi. And then I came to Lilongwe to play with the DD Sunshine Club after impressing in an Airtel Women’s Football Tournament in Mzuzu,” she explains.
She was spotted in Lilongwe to go and play in Sweden as a professional.
Tabitha’s advice to girls is to fear God, quoting the Bible, saying “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
Going with the famous quote- success is not an accident, Tabitha further advises that without hard work and perseverance, there is no reaching greater heights in life.
“This talent did not come by itself because without God nothing is possible. In addition, hard work is key in my field,” she adds.