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‘My mother used to beat me for playing football’, says Chawinga

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Malawi star, Tabitha Chawinga, has told the BBC her mother used to beat her for playing football.

Chawinga, 27, was the top scorer in Serie A last season with 23 goals while on loan at Inter Milan from Chinese side Wuhan Jianghan.

The striker first hit the big time with Kvarnsvedens IK in Sweden’s top flight but said the road to success was a long one.

“My mum beat me because she was embarrassed,” Chawinga told BBC World Service podcast Africa Daily.

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“People would provoke my mum: ‘Look at your daughter – maybe she will not be married in the future. Your daughter, she doesn’t want to go to school.’

“Even my friends said: ‘No women can play football in this world.’

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“But now I’m very happy because there are many African people waking up and opening their eyes.”

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Chawinga became the first Malawian woman to sign for a European club when she joined Swedish third-tier club Krokom/Dvarsatts IF in 2014.

A move to Kvarnsvedens followed at the end of the season after 39 goals in 18 appearances.

Chawinga’s younger sister, Temwa, 24, soon followed in her footsteps.

She too joined Kvarnsvedens IK, arriving three years after Tabitha, in 2017, before moving to China – just like her sister again.

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Tabitha joined Jiangsu Suning in 2018, while Temwa joined Wuhan Jianghan in 2020. Tabitha attributes her faith as a large factor in her ability to pave the way.

“I believe football is a calling from God,” she said.

“At six or seven years old, I was reading in the press about a lot of young boys of the same age going to play football, so I was following them.

“We played football with a ball that we made ourselves out of plastic or paper.

“I was interested to play with the boys and play football.

“It was difficult that my mum and dad didn’t allow me to play football. I was strong.”

Chawinga says attitudes are now changing towards sport in her country, who missed out on qualification for last year’s Women’s Africa Cup of Nations after a 4-3 aggregate defeat in qualifying to Zambia.

The forward acknowledges that the difficulties she faced were as a result of economic pressures as well as societal.

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It was from these adversities, though, that Chawinga also found her determination.

“I was motivated myself because some other friends tried to tell me not to [play football] – but I saw the power and never gave up,” she said.

“My family was not rich. My parents needed their kids to go to school, not do sports.

“They tried to feed us. We never slept with an empty stomach but it was not a rich family. We never had a car.

“We didn’t eat like the other families ate. We had meat maybe once a week.

“My mum was a farmer and my father was a cleaner. I worked hard to sell things, I sold vegetables – or candy in school. I got people to pay me if I worked in their house.

“I didn’t really go far with school, I just played football and went to school just to sell some candy. I stopped school when I left Malawi to go to Sweden.

“Football is a career from God.”

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