Unheralded Malawian football sensation Henri Kumwenda, who plays for the United Kingdom (UK)’s Leeds United Under-18 team, could make a sensational transfer to Premier League runaway leaders Liverpool this January transfer window.
Kumwenda has, throughout his football career in the football academy ranks of Leeds, identified himself as being from Malawi, but it is unclear if he would be willing to play for the country’s national teams.
Several UK online publications, including Footballer Insider, have commented glowingly on the prospect of the European champions snapping up the 18-year-old who left Malawi as a four-year-old.
He has also featured for Leeds’ Under-23 side.
“Kumwenda is yet to sign a professional deal with Leeds and that has alerted England’s leading clubs. Liverpool are among a number of top-flights who are monitoring the situation of the starlet. Kumwenda has
recovered well from injuries that have hindered his progress and is now fully fit and making a big impact at age-group level.
“He was the stand-out player for Leeds in recent youth cup wins against Hull City and Sheffield Wednesday. Kumwenda scored the winning spot-kick as United defeated Sheffield Wednesday 5-4 on penalties on Thursday night after the match had finished 2-2.This sealed Leeds’ progress to the fifth round of the prestigious FA Youth Cup,” www.footballinsider247.com reports.
Another UK online publication, www.rousingthekop.com, has commented on Kumwenda.
“There’s not much known about Kumwenda. What we do know is that he is 18 years old and is yet to sign a professional contract—meaning the Reds can slide in and snap him up, agreeing a compensation package at a later date.
“He is a versatile player. Although he is naturally a central striker, Kumwenda can play on the wing as an inside forward, much in the mould of the Reds’ own front three,” the website reports.
Another UK publication, Caught Offside, reports that Kumwenda was inching closer to the Kop, who also signed from Leeds youth team Harvey Elliott and Sepp van den Berg.
“Liverpool are reportedly considering a transfer swoop for versatile Leeds United youngster Henri Kumwenda after scouting the player,” www.caughtoffside.com reports.
It seems Kumwenda, whose actual district of origin in Malawi is not known, is also brainy as he top-scored in GCSE for Grammar School at Leeds.
The forward, who lives in Collingham, has been with Leeds since age 11 and signed a two-year scholarship deal last year, according to Yorkshire Evening Post.
After making his man-of-the match Leeds Under-23 debut in a 1-0 loss to Sheffield Wednesday on February 19 2019, Kumwenda tweeted: “Unlucky with the result, but happy to make my u-23 debut.”
Leeds Under-18 team plays in the 11-member Professional Development League (North) and are bottom with 11 points from 15 games on the log table.
Apart from Kumwenda, the UK has other young footballers with Malawian roots such as Yewo and Themba Nyirenda who were, in 2016, reported to have signed for English Championship side Nottingham Forest’s youth teams.
The local press reported that Yewo, 19, was born in Malawi, but grew up in England and plays as a striker or midfielder while 15-year-old Themba was born in England.
There is also Lilongwe-born Jeremy Wisten at Manchester City’s Under-13 Elite squad.
Ariel Johnson, who once played for Malawi under-20 at the 2016 Cosafa Cup in South Africa, plays college football in the United States alongside the likes of Paul Mbisa Junior.
UK-based Malawian, James Woods-Nkhutabasa, who is a part of the agency that facilitated Yamikani Chester’s transfer to North Carolina and now Las Vegas in the United States, yesterday said there are many young Malawian footballers in England.
“The older players include the two Nottingham Forest lads, Yewo and Themba Nyirenda, and then there is a bunch of academy players with Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Bayern Munich with Malawian roots. I know a few of these youngsters in the academies but the question is whether they themselves identify with Malawi or their country of birth,” Woods-Nkhutabasa said.
Football Association of Malawi (Fam) Media and Competitions Director, Gomezgani Zakazaka, yesterday said in the past, the association was unable to coax Malawian footballers due to the law that restricted dual citizenship. However, Malawi laws now entertain dual citizenship.
“All along, the wish was there but the policy was not there because of the dual policy issue. Most players were unwilling to denounce their citizenship just to play for Malawi. Now, with the new dual citizenship law, the new Fam Executive Committee can look into and possibly draft a policy on such players,” Zakazaka said.
In the past, Flames coaches failed to lure the likes of Malawi-born Tamika Mkandawire and Tammy Nsaliwa as they were unwilling to renounce their citizenships of the UK and Canada, respectively.
Elsewhere, national teams such as Madagascar, Mauritania and Burundi, who qualified for the 2018 Africa Cup of Nations finals in Egypt, have built their squads around players from the diaspora.
Of late, Zimbabwe’s Warriors have beefed up their squad with UK-based players such as Tendani Darikwa (Nottingham Forest), Kundai Benyu (Celtic, Scotland), Admiral Musukwe (Leicester Under-23), Macaudley Bonne (Charlton Athletic), Jonah Fabisch (Hamburg SV, Germany), Tivonge Rushesha (Swansea City youth) and Jordan Zemura (Bournemouth under-21) who have Zimbabwean roots.
Peter Kanjere is a versatile Journalist currently working for Times Group as Assistant Editor for The Daily Times.
With vast experience in the industry, he is also an accomplished Sports Analyst, whose exploits in sports reporting and analysis span beyond the length and breadth of the African continent.