Women football in Zambia, A pool of untapped potential
The Zambia national team has failed to qualify for two consecutive Africa Cup of national tournaments, 2017 and 2019. This the first time the 2012 Champions have not appeared at two tournaments in a row since their first appearance in 1974.
The Men’s Under-20 and Under- 17 have all performed below par with premature exits at COSAFA tournaments and failing to qualify for an AFCON tournament (Under-20) that Zambia (Current Under-23 squad) had won in 2017 when they hosted it.
The Men’s Under-23 national team who recently qualified for the U23 AFCON tournament has however continued to carry the hopes of the many football-mad Zambians who have not taken kindly the failure by the senior team to qualify to two AFCON tournaments.
With all these failures on the men side of things the Women side has however been doing surprisingly well considering the little attention, Support and Seriousness or lack their of that Women football is subjected to in this country.
In 2018 the Women’s team qualified to the Africa Women Cup of Nations making only their third appearance. The Copper Queens could not go past the group stage but put up a decent fight as they finished third in group B and recorded a five-nil win over two time Champions Guinea Bissau.
They (Copper Queens) have managed to win silver (2019) and Bronze (2017) medals in their last three COSAFA Women’s Championship outings and are currently still in contention for the 1.5 places for Africa at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. At the 2019 COSAFA tournament, Green Buffaloes forward Rachel Nachula scored 10 goals to win the golden boot while Helen Mubanga was named as player of the tournament.
The U20 and the U17 won silver and bronze medals at the inaugural COSAFA U20 and U17 Women’s Championship respectively. The U17 team was assembled from scratch within a month and coach Kaluba Kangwa decided to leave all the eligible players from the U20 team on purpose, which says a lot about the abundance of talent in the country when it comes to Women’s football.
The country can also boast of three players plying their trade abroad, Barbara Banda who turns out for EDF Logroño of Spain’s top division (Liga Iberdrola) and the former Indeni Roses duo of Rachel Kundananji and Misozi Zulu who play for UEFA Women’s Champions League campaigners BIIK Kazygurt in Kazakhstan.
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— Zambia Women's Soccer (@Copper_Queens) September 24, 2019
Misozi Zulu who is the captain of the senior Women’s team believes it’s about time Women’s football had sponsorship because of how good the teams have been performing.
“It is my wish that we should have sponsors in Women football because we are now playing good football in Zambia and doing very well so this time we really need sponsors for women’s football,” She told the ZamFoot Crew in an exclusive interview.
Misozi became the first Zambian footballer to score in the UEFA Women’s Champions League as she opened the scores in BIIK Kazygurt 4-1 win over Finish side Pallokerho-35 Vantaa on Tuesday, 13th August 2019.
NO HELP FROM FAZ AT ALL
The Women’s football clubs who play in the various provincial leagues in the country most are funded from individual pockets.
Luyando Foundation is one of the many Women football teams that are funded by an individual, The owner of the club Bernard Chisenga Mwape who is also the coach has to foot the cost for the entire season with help from good wishers playing for nothing in league with no sponsors.
For a team like Luyando Foundation to fulfill all their fixtures in the Lusaka league, they will need approximately not less than $1000 for registration of players, transport, paying of referees and other costs. The teams are required to pay referees K100 (approximately $9).
Zambia Women’s U20 national team star midfielder Evarine Susan Katongo is one of the many players that have been groomed by coach Mwape and his Luyando Foundation. She was one of the standout performers at the inaugural U20 Women’s COSAFA Championships hosted in South Africa recently.
Mwape, however, is hopeful Women will one day get sponsorship. The Football Association of Zambia back in 2017 started a program of distributing kit to lower-tier clubs but Women football did not benefit anything.
NO NATIONAL WOMEN’S LEAGUE
The performance of the Women’s teams may fool you to think the country has a strong national league but that’s not the case. The Women’s Leagues in the country are only in provinces like Lusaka, Copperbelt, Central, North Western with Southern Province scheduled to launch their league in the next few months.
The idea of a national League is however in the pipeline being spearheaded by a number of officials from clubs. The idea is to get an organized league with all the proper documentation that can be presented to would-be sponsors.
In the past sponsors have shown interest to pump in money in Women’s football but lack of seriousness and failure to produce documentation has always been the undoing on the part of the Football Association of Zambia.
“Indeni Oil refineries showed interest in funding a tournament at the end of the season but needed some form of documentation to be able to show the auditors but the paperwork never came and that’s how that ended,” A source told the ZamFoot Crew.
Despite all these struggles little strides towards improving Women Football in Zambia have started being made. FAZ recently signed a partnership agreement with Seven UK Universities to commence community leagues for women football.
FAZ will partner with the universities in coaching, refereeing, and administration of football. The Seven Universities under the Wallace Group will coordinate community leagues for under-15 women football and also provide support in human resource development.
It seems there might be light at the end of the tunnel but people can hold their celebrations in regards to that development until they see the actual work being implemented on the ground.
Should FAZ and other stakeholders take Women Football seriously and give it the necessary attention and support it requires Zambia will be at the World Cup in no time and may win an AFCON tournament sooner than expected.
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