- Zambia winger Mumba Mwape shares how a trans-continent football education has shaped his style
- He explains how watching the Brazilian Ronaldo and Johan Cruyff on YouTube inspired him
- Insists the African champions will not be over-awed by the FIFA U-20 World Cup Korea Republic 2017
“In Africa, there’s a lot of focus on physical play. There’s a lot of hard running, lots of contact, whereas now in Spain it’s more technical. It’s all about tactics and really understanding the game.
“Carrying my physical presence over from Africa has helped me a lot and learning the technical and tactical side is really helping me develop.”
Having made the move to Geneva as a nine-year-old with his father – who worked as an ambassador – Mwape instantly found his place playing club football. “I stuck out there. The first season I joined I was top scorer! From then it just cemented what I wanted to do.”
I look up to players like Neymar, Ronaldinho, players who really enjoy taking on their opponents and just have fun on the pitch.
Zambia's Mumba Mwape on his footballing icons
Initially, the transition from African sun to European snow was tough. “It was very difficult, obviously. We moved in winter too, so that didn’t really help! With time it got better and better, then by the end I didn’t want to leave.”
Fuelled with a new-found focus on football, Mwape returned to Zambia, joining up with a local academy. However, in the mind of his family, one thing had to come first: school. “My parents were fairly strict on that.”
On graduating, South Africa was his next destination, joining the University of Pretoria academy before setting sail for Europe again. A desire to educate himself off the field has remained, though – he is now studying online for a Business Management degree from the University of London.
But it does present its share of challenges. “It’s very difficult as I don’t have a personal tutor, teacher or lecturers, so there’s a lot of research I have to do by myself,” he explained, “but I’m getting the hang of it.”
A Seleção scholar
But it’s not the first time the internet has proved a vital learning tool in his personal development, though in the past his teachers have invariably worn canary yellow. “When I moved to Switzerland I discovered YouTube,” the winger said with a laugh. “I watched quite a few of videos [of Brazilians in the early 2000s] and tried to replicate their skills!
“I always heard my family talking about how great the Brazilian Ronaldo was, but when I was growing up I didn’t have much access to TV or sports channels, so YouTube helped a lot and he was quite the player. It means I get to watch people like Johan Cruyff, too!
“I look up to the likes of Neymar, Ronaldinho, players who really enjoy taking on their opponents and just have fun on the pitch – though you have to do it within a team.”
A team ethos is something he feels Zambia will have in spades when they rock up in Korea Republic. “We’re like family, almost. We get along really well and try to have a laugh all the time. When results are great, it makes it even easier.”
And they have been. Despite only being together as a team for around a year, they have already won the COSAFA Under-20 Championship and will arrive as the newly-crowned CAF U-20 Africa Cup of Nations champions.
“It was something special,” Mwape said of the tournament, hosted by Zambia. “We had the whole country behind us. Every game was packed to capacity – 60,000 – from start to finish, so we took that momentum and played to our best.”
While Portugal, Iran and Costa Rica present challenging opponents at the U-20 World Cup, the quick and tricky wide-man is seeing the positives. “Tough teams make you focus, ensuring you're playing your best football from the first whistle.”