When Tabitha Chawinga signed for a European football club in Sweden back in 2014, she became the pioneer, the first Malawian woman to make such a move.
In a candid conversation with the BBC, Chawinga revealed that her journey to the top was anything but smooth. Aged 27 and crowned Serie A’s top scorer last season with an astounding 23 goals while loaned to Inter Milan from China’s Wuhan Jianghan, Chawinga is a testament to what resilience can achieve.
Her first significant break in football came with Kvarnsvedens IK in the Swedish top league. However, she confesses that the road to stardom was fraught with challenges. “My mother used to discipline me physically because she was ashamed,” Chawinga disclosed on the Africa Daily podcast by BBC World Service. “The community would mock my mother, questioning the prospects of me getting married or even pursuing an education. My own friends would scoff, saying women couldn’t play football.”
Fast forward to today, Chawinga is elated to see changing perspectives. “Now, it’s heartening to see many Africans waking up to new realities,” she said.
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In 2014, Chawinga shattered glass ceilings by joining Swedish third-division team Krokom/Dvarsatts IF. Following her impressive feat of netting 39 goals in just 18 appearances, she made the jump to Kvarnsvedens IK.
Not to be left behind, her younger sister Temwa, also found her way to Kvarnsvedens IK three years later in 2017, before like Tabitha, making the move to the Chinese league.
Tabitha credits her unshakable faith as a significant force behind her journey.
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“I think football is a divine calling,” Chawinga said. “When I was as young as six or seven, I would read about boys my age going out to play football, and I wanted to be part of it. We made do with makeshift soccer balls crafted from plastic or paper. I always had this desire to play alongside the boys.”
Despite facing parental disapproval, her resolve never wavered. “I remained steadfast despite my parents’ reluctance to let me play,” she added.
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Chawinga also opened up about the changing cultural views toward sports in Malawi, especially following their near-miss in qualifying for the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations last year, losing to Zambia 4-3 on aggregate.
She acknowledged that her path was shaped by not just social norms but also economic hardships. “There was a certain drive in me, even when people told me not to play football. I was my own motivator,” she explained.
Chawinga came from a modest background. “We were far from affluent. My family focused more on education than sports. We lived a frugal life. My mom was a farmer, and my dad was a janitor,” she detailed.
To support her family, she resorted to selling vegetables or candy in school. “I didn’t complete my schooling. My focus shifted entirely to football once I left for Sweden,” she said.
Chawinga is a living example of how sports can truly be a divine career path, overcoming societal norms and economic barriers to reach the pinnacle of success in Serie A.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Tabitha Chawinga’s Journey
What is the main focus of this article?
The main focus of this article is to delve into the life of Tabitha Chawinga, who climbed the ladder from societal and economic challenges in Malawi to become a top scorer in Italy’s Serie A.
Who is Tabitha Chawinga?
Tabitha Chawinga is a 27-year-old Malawian professional footballer who has made a name for herself in Europe, particularly as Serie A’s leading scorer last season. She is notable for being the first Malawian woman to sign with a European club.
Why did Tabitha face challenges in Malawi?
Tabitha faced multiple challenges in Malawi due to societal norms that discouraged women from playing football. Even her mother was initially opposed to her football aspirations, partly due to the stigma and partly due to economic pressures.
What was Tabitha’s first European club?
Tabitha’s first European club was Krokom/Dvarsatts IF, a Swedish third-division team, which she joined in 2014. She later moved to Kvarnsvedens IK after an impressive performance.
Does Tabitha have any family members in football?
Yes, her younger sister, Temwa, also took up football and joined Kvarnsvedens IK three years after Tabitha did. She then followed her sister’s footsteps to the Chinese league.
What role does faith play in Tabitha’s life?
Tabitha attributes her unwavering faith as a significant factor in her journey to becoming a professional footballer. She believes that her career in football is a “divine calling.”
How did Tabitha financially support herself before football stardom?
Before her rise to football stardom, Tabitha came from a modest background and sold vegetables or candy to help her family make ends meet.
What’s the cultural impact of Tabitha’s success?
Tabitha’s success has played a role in challenging and changing cultural norms in Malawi and perhaps even broader Africa. She serves as an example that women can excel in sports despite societal and economic barriers.
How did Tabitha end up playing for Inter Milan?
After her initial successes in the Swedish league, Tabitha was loaned to Inter Milan from Wuhan Jianghan, a Chinese side. Her performance was outstanding, earning her the title of top scorer in Serie A last season.
What is Tabitha’s message for aspiring athletes?
Tabitha wants people to know that it’s possible to overcome both societal and economic barriers to achieve your dreams. She mentions that she was her own motivator and encourages others to never give up on their aspirations.
More about Tabitha Chawinga’s Journey
- Tabitha Chawinga’s Career Stats
- BBC Interview with Tabitha Chawinga
- Serie A Women’s Football
- The State of Women’s Football in Malawi
- Malawi’s Near Miss in Women’s Africa Cup of Nations Qualifiers
- Kvarnsvedens IK: A Stepping Stone for Malawian Sisters
- Social and Economic Barriers in African Sports
- Women Who Changed the Game: From Grassroots to Professional Football
- Changing Societal Norms Through Sports
- Wuhan Jianghan and the Rise of Women’s Football in China