Tabitha Chawinga, a Malawi international who plays in China, has called for greater safeguards against abuse in her home country
The international footballer Tabitha Chawinga is calling on Malawi’s football authorities to introduce safeguards to protect women from abuse at all levels of the game.
Chawinga, who became the first woman from Malawi to sign for a European football team when she joined the Swedish club Krokom/Dvärsätts IF in 2014, said that she had been forced to strip in public during a match to prove she was female and was regularly trolled on social media about her looks.
“I don’t want other people to face the same. It makes me think, if they are insulting someone they have just met at the football ground, what would they do if I was born in their family. Could they have killed me?” she said in a telephone interview from China, where she now plays for Wuhan Jianghan University FC in the Chinese Women’s Super League and was voted Player of the Year two years in a row.
The 25-year-old, who has captained the Malawi national team and was ranked among the 100 best female footballers in the world by the Guardian last year, said that while playing for a girls’ school team when she was 13 she was forced to undress in front of the opposition to prove she was a girl. Her opponents did not believe she was female because of her physical appearance and how well she played.
“I had never been so devastated and I cried at the embarrassment that I had been exposed to. I wanted to walk out right away but somehow my teammates consoled me and I decided to finish the game,” she said. The incident made her quit the sport for a year.