Twenty-six-year-old Salome Manyau, chairlady of the WomenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Boxing Council of Malawi, boxer, boxing judge, referee and coach speaks on working in a male dominated sport, juggling her roles both inside and outside the ring and training Isaac Ã¢â‚¬ËœGolden BoyÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ Chilemba.
Where does your story begin?
It begins in Biwi, Lilongwe, where I grew up. I did my primary school at the same place and attended Tsabango Secondary School and wrote my MSCE at Kawale Secondary School in the [capital city of Malawi]. There are six children in our family; four girls and two boys. I am the third born.
All members of my family are very proud of me and they have encouraged me to follow my dreams ever since I was young. They form my support system and I am thankful for their love.
How did you get involved in boxing?
Ever since I was doing my secondary school, I have always been a sporty person. I played hockey and football. In 2000, I joined boxing after seeing that there werenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t so many people in this field. I think there are only 20 women in boxing. Also, looking at my build, I knew that I would be able to perform in the ring and win matches. Even though training is hard work, especially for women, I gave it my best shot and I still do. Training involves running, punching the sand bag and doing other forms of exercise at least twice a day. A lot of women find it hard to commit to such a regime. Most end up focusing on their marriages and children which leave no room for intense training.
Explain to me what you doÃ¢â‚¬Â¦
I am a boxing judge, a referee, a coach and a boxer. I am also the current chairlady of the WomenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s Boxing Council in Malawi. As a referee, I oversee the fights when they are in play. I might call off a bout if I see that players are badly injured. I also read out the match results with the help of the judges.
As a coach, I help train boxers on the basics of boxing. This may include how to throw strong punches, how to defend oneself in the ring and where to hit in order to score more points. I hold all these responsibilities because I took up an opening in training judges, coaches and referees so I am equipped with the knowledge and papers in all the above.
I also diverted to the other areas because boxing is not well recognised in Malawi and there are very few females involved so I couldnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t sit around waiting for matches.
How do you manage to juggle these five roles?
To be honest with you, I never do all these at the same time so dividing my time between them is not that difficult. However, it is very difficult to referee a match, especially one involving men because the bouts are very intense and can be scary at times. However, the more I monitor such matches, the more fearless I become.
Have you trained any big boxers?
I trained MalawiÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s golden boy, Isaac Chilemba, in 2001 when he first started out. I have trained a lot of other people too; he isnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t the only one.
How many bouts have you taken part in?
I have knocked out many women and I am currently the champion in the womenÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s department. As I have said, not a lot of women are involved in boxing and we have a lot of dropouts.
Is this what you have always wanted to do?
I have always wanted to be a boss in a big corporate organisation but I canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t say I regret what I do because I have a passion for it. However, I have not put to rest my ambitions. I know one day I will achieve my goals.
Are you in a relationship?
Yes. I have a boyfriend and he has been there for me always. He encourages me to forge ahead in boxing and tells me not to let people get to me in any way. Because I am female, people have said a lot of gender insensitive things to discourage me.
You know, when you engage yourself in fighting, people think you are someone with no manners or that you are a lost child when in actual fact the situation might not be like that. I am thankful that my boyfriend is my number one fan and he tells me to trust in what I believe in. I thank God for him.
Femininity and womanhood are often associated with softness. As a boxer, you have to be hard, able to take the punches as they come. How do you combine being a boxer, a girlfriend and a woman without losing your femininity?
When a woman has virtues, she knows how to divide her time, which is what I do. Before I leave for training or anything for that matter, I make sure that I do household chores and do my work. I have explained all these roles to my boyfriend and he is very understanding. I try as much as possible to do all these in time.
How far did you go with your education?
I finished my MSCE and later did a diploma in hotel management. Currently, I am the managing director of Sun Village Lodge in Liwonde.
What kind of person would you say you are?
I take myself as someone who is very friendly and down to earth. Because I am a boxer, some people put me in a box and label me Ã¢â‚¬ËœdifficultÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ but I am not. Boxing is only a game, a career. It does not teach people to be bad or evil. It only teaches participants to defend themselves in the ring and not outside the ring.
What is your favourite quote?
Never remind a person the wrongs they did, unless you want to build them.
Who are the people that motivate you, both locally and internationally?
I just love Laila Ali, Mohammed AliÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s daughter, and I would love to attain what she has attained in terms of boxing. She has great skills and is amazing in the ring. She fights very well.
Where would you like to be at the climax of your career?
I would very much love to referee, or judge a famous international match. I pray this happens.
When all is said and done, how would you like to be remembered?
I would like people to remember me as the first woman ever to referee boxing.