Towera Vinkhumbo: The unsung hero of Malawi sports

… Netballer and footballer in one

Malawi is fondly called the Warm Heart of Africa. Although this is the case, its citizens only feel the warmth in death. When one is dead, it is when Malawians start showing appreciation on social media.

But I want us to do right by this lady, Towera Vinkhumbo. I want Malawians to celebrate her heroics while she is still alive. This will encourage her and others to give of themselves without pause in service of national development in sports.

Vinkhumbo playing for the Malawi National football team

Most of us know Towera Vinkhumbo as the defence stalwart for the national netball team, the Malawi Queens. But she is more than that. She is also a football player and was part of the She-Flames that thrashed Mozambique 11-1 in the 2020 Tokyo Olympics qualifier in Blantyre on Wednesday.

I have no intention of stealing the shine from the Chawinga sisters, Thabitha and Temwa. They dazzled and scored the goals, brilliant! But there was also someone behind them who marshalled the defence in such a way that the Mozambicans found it impenetrable. And that person is no other than Towera Vinkhumbo.

Her resilient defensive talents have not only helped the She-Flames but have seen our National Netball team, the Queens, compete with the best at the Netball World Cup and Fast5 World Series. In netball, her defensive pair with Carol Mtukule Ngwira has been the bedrock of Malawi Queens success at the world stage for the last 15 years.

Vinkhumbo on Malawi Queens duty

She was part of the team which finished third at 2016 Fast5 Netball World Series in Australia. She also took part in the World Netball Cup 4 years ago. She was also part of Malawi Queens which beat the Mighty New Zealand at the Commonwealth games. She is very likely to be part of Malawi Queens’ squad which is going to compete at The 2019 Netball World Cup in London in June this year.

At club level, she plays for Kukoma Diamonds which used to be Escom Sisters, the team that has dominated local netball for years under the tutelage of the great gaffer,  Griffin Saenda.

She is also a basketball player. As I was writing this piece, information came through that she has been playing for Eagles Basketball team and now she is with Mikoko Mystics. Obviously if we had a female national basketball team, she would have made the grade as well. That’s just how good she is.

It runs in the blood

Most soccer fans of my age are familiar with the name Aubrey Vinkhumbo who was fondly called Des Walker by Mighty Wanderers faithful. He operated at the heart of the Nomads defence. His quality was that he was very calm and confident for a defender.  He had the rare ability to control and pass not what we are seeing today from defenders who just clear the ball to safety in kick and rush football.

Late Aubrey Vinkhumbo was her brother. It seems she was inspired by her brother and when he passed on she decided to carry on the passion and fulfill what her brother started. She plays her club football with Blantyre Zero FC.

Towera was born in a family of 11 children (six girls and five boys) and she is the ninth born.

Her selfless dedication in serving Malawi Netball and Women’s football is something that should not be taken for granted. Her talent is immense to excel for both national teams at the same time. Not an easy feat. She is a tough athlete who deserves recognition in our sports.

The next time Malawi National Sports Council organises those awards, spare one for this lady, Towera Vinkhumbo. I doff for this lady. She has earned my award as Sports Personality of the decade. If it were in other countries, she would be gracing the front pages of those famous sports magazines. Her name would be mentioned in the breath as Serena Williams.

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