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Bernadettar’s sweet song

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With Richard Chirombo:

It was, at one point, a precarious condition; the match officiation setup in Malawi.

This is because match-officiation was a preserve of men. It was as if, when time for training referees came, the train carried only men.

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It was as if, when the train-of-refereeing came, it was so small that only men occupied its small space.

It was as if, somehow, the match-officiation field was akin to a little ‘country’ that could not accommodate men and women.

It was as if, when it came, males came first and females last.

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And, somehow, there were indications that men, steeped in a sense of self-importance after officiating a few games – they say mbuzi ikalawa mchere siitheka— saw no reason to invite females to the match-officiation party.

Maybe, somehow, the men felt that they did not owe females a living. After all, match officiation is a career. One gets into it of their own volition.

Maybe… before men could go on thinking, there came Malawi’s top First Assistant Referee, Bernadettar Kwimbira- Nzika.

It seems that Kwimbira- Nzika did not even have to look left, right and centre. She did not take ‘forever’ to reflect upon the challenges that come with the role of football officiation. She must have known that she was meant to stand whatever football stones threw at her. She is made of sterner stuff.

Look, when one realises that they are doing the right thing, they feel, rightly so, that they are under no obligation to ask anyone for permission to be there.

Before long, she established her presence in a crowded and competitive sphere full of men.

Today, she is so good at it that she has learned to stand firm, whether in case of triumph or adversity.

Well, good of you Kwimbira-Nzika; for, today, your star continues shining.

That is why the daughter-of-the-soil is among 47 referees earmarked to officiate at this year’s Fifa Women’s World Cup in France.

Well, in case you think it a miracle that the daughter-of-the-soil represented us on foreign soil for the first time, forget it. She has crosses the borders several times.

And, talking of the big stage— a venue that serves as a constellation of people from far and wide— this is the second time for Nzika Kwimbira to handle the world showpiece, having also officiated at the 2015 World Cup in Canada.

There, on foreign soil, Kwimbira-Nzika can hit back at unappreciative fans by shouting at them in Chichewa: “Mudya mchenga afana [eat a bag of sand, poor folks]! Ha!Ha!H a!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!Ha!H a!Ha!Ha!

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