At 27, Tabitha Chawinga has made a big impact wherever she has been. In Sweden, China and Italy, and now in France, where she has been delighting PSG for a season. Originally from Malawi, a country where it has long been frowned upon for a woman to play football, the striker has never given up on pursuing her dreams as a footballer. In the group to face Lyon in the Division 1 final, Friday May 17 (9 p.m.) in Décines-Charpieu (Rhône), despite muscular discomfort, the top scorer, recently elected best player in the French championship, retraces her journey to the World hectic.

It’s a great moment for PSG and for me. We want to win the championship, this is our chance. We are going to win this trophy, we can make history by winning the Cup-championship double [Paris won the Coupe de France on May 4]. Yes, we lost against them recently, we even lost in ten minutes in the first leg [led 2-0, OL scored in the 80th, 85th and 86th]. But we learned from our mistakes.

I knew it was sort of the “French derby”. Everyone talked to me about OL when I arrived. Against this team, it’s always a very interesting match. It’s a whole other level when you play Lyon, probably the highest level matches of my life. It’s a team that has won so much in the Champions League [eight European titles].

Yes, I was also top scorer and best player in Sweden, China and Italy.

[Smile.] It’s both normal and not normal. But I insist, it is my teammates who allow me to be the heroine by scoring goals. It’s thanks to them that I can score so much, they always push me to do better.

I have always been attracted to scoring and I worked hard for it. But when I was a little girl, I started as a goalkeeper. Then I played any position on the field. To then start training in shooting and developing this goalscoring quality.

I have never checked how many goals I have scored since the start of my career [more than 300 goals since his debut in the Malawian first division]. Since I’ve been playing in Italy and now in France, I’ve been a little more careful [26 goals with Inter Milan and 28 with PSG].

At that time, I was in my village. And there it is not well accepted that girls play football. It was a sport for men. My parents wouldn’t allow me to play: “No, it’s not for you. You can play netball [women’s variation of basketball] if you want. »

Every time I went to play football, my father and mother beat me when I came back. I never gave up. I once challenged them: “OK, if you want me to stop playing soccer, that means you stop hitting me. » We tried… It lasted two or three days before I started playing again.

I faced a lot of difficult situations in Malawi during the matches. I didn’t care because my goal was to succeed. I come from a poor background. I wanted to become someone who could help their family. That’s why I never gave up, I never gave up. I always looked ahead, towards my future and what I was convinced I would one day achieve.

An American, Melisa [Krnjaic, a former high-level player who worked for an NGO in Malawi and who played at Sunshine, Chawinga’s club], believed in me and put me in contact with a Swedish club, where she had evolved. The president of my club, Mr Dumbe, who was also our coach, took care of getting me a visa and paying for the plane ticket. That man is dead now, and I wish he could see what I achieved. Even when he was sick, he would tell me: “I believe in you Tabitha, one day you will be a great player. That’s why I sent you to Sweden. »

I was shy, a little scared. It was my first trip abroad, the first time I was going to live alone. I knew I would face a lot of challenges. I didn’t speak English well. I didn’t see any black people, anyone who spoke my language. It was difficult, but I stayed focused.

The team adopted me straight away. By joining this club in the third division, my goal was to showcase myself to play in a big club. As soon as I arrived, I asked my teammates if Marta [Brazilian star striker who played in the Swedish first division at the time] played in the same championship as us. I was extremely motivated. I wanted to one day face the best, like her.

When you play football you have to travel a lot. Today I am here, tomorrow I will be in another country. I was like, “OK, I’m going to China. » I knew I had to be strong and continue to improve. It was a big city, very populated, but I met a second family. There were foreign players [notably Elizabeth Addo, Ghanaian striker]. I met Jocelyn Prêcheur [her coach at PSG, who also coached her in China]. It was good for me.

PSG is a good club. It was my dream to play one day for Paris Saint-Germain, a renowned club in Malawi. This is the high level and I dream of continuing to play there. I think I will play in Paris again next season.