On 12 November 2019, Tawanda Chirewa made his
first-team debut for Ipswich Town Football Club as
the second youngest player in the team’s history at
the age of 16 years and 31 days.
Tawanda was born in Chelmsford, England to Zimbabwean
parents, Tsitsi and Blessing Chirewa and
started playing football at the age of eight. His father
was and still is a huge fan of the game and when
Tawanda started under his father’s watchful eyes, he
fell in love with the beautiful game himself.
“I started playing football with my father in the nearest
park to my house, just learning the basics of the game”
It wasn’t long before he mastered some great foot
skills and started training at the PASS Academy.
Founded in 2002 by ex-professional players, the
academy is a soccer training school that invites
promising young players for developmental training.
Entry is really by invitation only and that shows
how talented Tawanda was…and is. Many of their
recruits go on to play for professional clubs.
So how exactly did he get from PASS to Ipswich?
“When I was at the PASS Academy, I played against
Ipswich, they liked the look of me, gave me a trial and
got signed up.” And there, just like that he became
one of the youngest to be signed in the club’s history.
And how does it feel to play for a professional team
and make history? ‘It feels good. People say there’s
going to be pressure, but I don’t really feel it and I’m
just trying to improve and be the best I can be. To
play for a professional team is a dream come true.”
The central midfielder is really as cool as that with
everything. He’s still at school and trains from 5:30-8
most evenings. When I asked him how he juggles
school and training he said, ‘It’s not too bad. I like the
routine. But it’s tough doing both and I struggle at
times. You just have to be disciplined and stick to the
plan because you always have to have a plan B.” And
what’s Plan B? “I don’t know right now but it will be
something in sport.”
“I like listening to music, going out with my friends and
watching Netflix. No I don’t paid yet but when I finish
school I will”
There’s no doubt that his family have played a huge
part in supporting his dream, starting with his
father kicking a ball with him for fun. “They are very
proud of me,” he says, “and they are excited to see me
grow and improve as a player and a person.
He’s the youngest of three with two older sisters.
“My sisters are proud of me and want me to do
everything I can to succeed. They even come with
me to training sometimes even if they don’t want to.
Thanks Gamu and Chenge!”
With his family, Tawanda has visited Zimbabwe
many times. “I’ve been to Zimbabwe a few times and I
speak to my family there often. I love Zimbabwe and
will be going there a lot in the future.”
Who else inspires Tawanda? “Overall Ronaldo
because of his discipline, overall ability and how he
rises to the biggest occasions. But positionally I look
up to Paul Pogba and Frank Lampard.”
So far one of his dreams – playing for a professional
club – has come true. What other dreams does this
young star have?
“I want to play at the highest level,
win the most trophies and also win the Ballon D’or
which is my ultimate goal.”
Tawanda wants it all and from what we see, he’ll get
Photo by Lennon Samhungu