Former Chitipa United and Junior Flames’ highly rated striker, Abel Mwakilama, is gradually overcoming cultural shocks of playing in Europe for the first time, and with it raising hopes for Malawi football.
Mwakilama has bagged two goals in two games for Portugal’s fourth-tier league regional side, Sporting Clube de Esmoriz, to make a dream start to his infant career in Europe.
In a telephone interview from Portugal on Tuesday, the Malawi under-20 striker confirmed that he scored a double and provided two assists when Esmoriz saw off Avanca 4-2 on Saturday, a week after featuring in a 1-0 win over Ovarense FC.
The former Simama Premier Division top scorer (with 38 goals) admitted that it was not easy adapting to the sights and sounds of Europe.
“There is nothing like nsima here. It is their own food, and you just have to get used to it.
The weather is also very unkind. You go to train and it is all snow. It has not been easy for me but it is worth it. The coach speaks English, so training has been easier but I have had to learn many things. On Mondays, I go for Portuguese language classes. Wednesdays are dedicated to gym work and on Fridays, we go in class to learn about tactics. The coach teaches us using a tactical board.
“After my first game, the coach brought me a video clip and analysed my performance. He showed me my runs and explained that once I lost the ball, I was walking. He advised me to improve on tracking back my opponents in their own half when I do not have the ball. It is a totally new way of doing things here,” the 19-year-old said.
Mwakilama’s Manager and former coach at Chitipa, Robert Mzinza, confirmed yesterday that his client has created an early impression in the lower echelons of Portugal football. Esmoriz were founded in 1932 and are based at 3,000-seater Estadio da Barrinha.
“Actually the coach [Narciso Ratinho] told me that Abel is a fast learner. He can score and create scoring chances. He is able to hold up play and bring others into the attacking-third. His biggest strength is that he is unable to miss once he catches sight of the target. It is also difficult for a defender to catch him when he gets one yard away,” Mzinza said.
Mzinza believes that Malawi needs to export many young players to fast-track their development into stars so as to make the Flames strong. Mwakilama signed for Esmoriz on a three-year contract at a fee of K2.9 million.
Esmoriz’s squad comprises many young players, including foreigners. Zambian under-20 player Emmanuel Banda, who is now based in Belgium, played for Esmoriz last year. Another Zambian Kenneth Kalunga also plays for Esmoriz alongside Nigerians Moses John and Edward Abubu and Brazilians Julio Coronelo, Sena and Raphael.
Former Mafco striker Richard Mbulu also plays for Portuguese third-tier team, Associação Desportiva Sanjoanens. Mbulu, the 2016 TNM Super League top scorer, has featured in some games for the team.
The Flames striker told The Nation last week that he was adapting to many things, including learning about match analysis through information which the team’s coach sends through e-mails. Mbulu, Mwakilama and Tawonga Chimodzi, who is believed to be playing for a club in Cyprus, are among the few Malawian footballers based in Europe.
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