Women Football gets boost ahead of Olympic qualifiers

Malawi national women’s football team has received a major boost to their back-to-back 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifiers against Mozambique following the release of strikers Tabitha and Temwa Chawinga by their respective Chinese and Swedish clubs.

Tabitha (in green) in the thick of action for Malawi

Football Association of Malawi (FAM) licensing and compliance manager Casper Jangale confirmed yesterday that Jiangsu Suning and Kvarnsvedens IK, respectively, have given the siblings a greenlight to be on national duties against Mozambique between April 1 and 9.  

“The clubs have agreed to release the players, who are expected to be in Malawi at least a week before the first qualifier as per the rules of the world soccer governing body, Fifa,” he said.

The Chawinga sisters last played for the national team at the 2017 Council for Southern Africa Football Associations (Cosafa) Women’s Championships.

Tabitha scored eight goals while Temwa got four,

The Chinese-based professional was also the competition’s second leading scorer as she was just two goals shy of eventual Golden Boot winner Rutendo Makore of Zimbabwe.

During the 2018 Cosafa edition, the Chawinga sisters’ absence was felt as Malawi scored two goals in three matches.

Then Malawi lost 0-2 to Botswana and won by a similar margin against Madagascar. They also suffered a 0-6 defeat by South Africa.

Tabitha, who won the 2018 Women Footballer of the Year and Golden Boot Award in China with 17 goals, is currently leading the scorers’ chart in the 2019 Chinese National Women Championship with 11 goals.

On their part, Tabitha and Temwa yesterday said they are ready to serve the nation.

“It has been a long time since I played for my country and I thank my club for giving me this opportunity in the forthcoming Olympic qualifiers,” Tabitha said.

National team coach Abel Mkandawire yesterday said he cannot wait to have the free-scoring sisters in his squad.

“Whenever the national team has the two sisters up front, we are always assured of goals and their release is a big relief for us,” he said.

Meanwhile, National Women Football Association (NWFA) chairperson Severia Chalira says all is set for a regional select tournament tomorrow at Civo Stadium   in Lilongwe.

The tournament is aimed at providing a platform for the national team technical panel to select talented players that can be roped in the national team ahead of the Olympic qualifiers.

Women football national team’s participation in the Olympic qualifiers comes after the side outsmarted the basketball national team in its application for a K27 million ($36 000) team grant from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) through the Malawi Olympic Committee (MOC) last year.

MOC administration manager Naomi Chinatu said both FAM and Basketball Association of Malawi (Basmal), who were the only applicants for the team grant, presented good proposals but women football won the bid “mostly because of IOC’s campaign to encourage women to compete at the Olympics.”

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