HENRI KUMWENDA: SKINS Ambassador makes International Debut

HENRI KUMWENDA: SKINS Ambassador makes International Debut

By: Henri Kumwenda

It’s been a few days now since I was honored with the opportunity to represent my country in soccer. It still hasn’t quite sunk in yet – I have to pinch myself every now and then to make sure I’m not dreaming. It all happened so quickly. From playing on the Butler Bowl to playing Kenya in front of thousands, in front of a nation; all in the blink of an eye. It was daunting, yet I relished every second of it. But before I tell you more about this experience, let me first introduce myself: my name is Henri Kumwenda. I am a D1 athlete playing soccer at Butler University, a recent international debutante, and of course, a proud SKINS ambassador.

Back to the Beginning

To truly understand this journey, we have to take it all the way back to the beginning. Born in Blantyre, Malawi, I was raised by my mother and grandmother for four years. Just before I turned 5, along with my two elder siblings, I moved to the UK to start a new life. Soccer has always been a part of me. My earliest memories all involve a ball at my feet and hours spent in the park having a ‘kick-a-bout’. However, it wasn’t until the age of 9 where things really took off. I joined my local soccer club and rose through the ranks quickly. To the joy of my mum, I joined Leeds United Academy aged 10 – an institution where I would go on to hone my soccer skills for the next 8 years.

Across the Pond

When the opportunity presented itself to play D1 soccer at Butler, I couldn’t say no. I soon found myself on a flight across the pond, pondering the next chapter of my life. Although exciting, coming to the U.S. was an anxious time for me. I was alone in a foreign country and experiencing a world I didn’t quite know. But I wanted the challenge.

I reveled at the opportunity to test myself against the best and to not only grow as a player, but also as a person. Now, I know you all have one burning question: where does SKINS fit into all this? Well, let me relieve that itch.

The Uphill Battle

My initial season at Butler was tough. I was coming off the back of two knee surgeries for a meniscus tear that sidelined me for nearly a year. The pace of D1 soccer is unrelenting, and I struggled to keep up; or should I more accurately say, my body did. I was in the training room daily as I fought to keep my body intact. Air compression machine. Soft tissue. Ice. Repeat. Air compression machine. Soft tissue. Ice. Repeat. For doing so much, I was getting little in return and my performances suffered as a result. I was unable to get the best out of my body and was no longer contributing to the standard I expected of myself. But like I said, I love the challenge and was determined to succeed. I came across SKINS Compression and never looked back.

SKINS Recovery

The one thing I love about SKINS is that it caters to my every need, whether its recovery, performance, or comfort. As talked about earlier, my biggest problem was recovery. I was unable to recover quickly enough between games and training sessions, meaning I was fatigued most of the time. My body was still healing from the surgeries and I was still finding my feet. But SKINS was the turning point.

Wearing the SKINS recovery pants after games and training sessions gave me the boost I needed. It made my legs feel young again and gave me the platform to find my form again. It was the breakthrough I was looking for. Having my body close to 100% every day allowed me to shift my focus to the field. I was able to spend more time refining my skills on the pitch compared to spending most of my team in the treatment room recovering. To take my game to the next level, I soon added SKINS performance wear to compliment my SKINS recovery. I was now performing at a high level. I was now excelling.

The Call-Up

My performances soon caught the eye of my national team, of which a call-up soon followed. It took a while to sink in. I was going to represent my country. In whatever sport you compete in, it is something you dream of. Getting the opportunity to represent your country doesn’t come around often. It is the fruit of one’s hard work. It means you are the best that country has to offer.

With that thought comes a lot of pride, not only for me but for my family also, for my mother who sacrificed daily in support of my dreams. On the 23rd of March 2024, I came on in the second half against Kenya to make my debut. Knowing it was something I have worked for my whole life and with my whole family watching, it is a moment I will cherish for the rest of my life. Playing in the U.S. has helped me reach levels I never thought possible. It has also helped me grow as a person, learning key skills like critical thinking and independence. College soccer has pushed me to limits I didn’t know existed, something I will always be grateful for.

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