Becoming Mary Mwakapila: The tournament that defined the midfielders journey
The Zambia Women’s national team earlier this month made history when booked a place at the Olympics for the very first time in the history of Zambian Women’s football.
One of the key members of coach Bruce Mwape’s squad is Green Buffaloes Women’s football club midfielder, Mary Mwakapila. Mwakapila scored a brilliant goal in the 2-1 win over Cameroon at Nkoloma Stadium on 10th March to help the Copper Queens make history.
Despite the continent only noticing her brilliance in the last four years, The diminutive midfielder has always been a fantastic player.
The ZamFoot Crew sat down with Mwakapila to discuss her first-ever international outing eleven years ago when she went to Europe with the Zambia U-14 girls to take part in the 37th edition of the Norway cup, One of the biggest football tournaments for youths at the time and attracted around 48 nations.
Mwakapila believes the trip to Europe was very crucial in her career as it paved way for her career and gave her an insight into how far she could go in football.
“It was full of excitement because we were young and that was our first time on the plane and our parents were so concerned about everything but very anxious to see us fly for the first time as many of our parents had never been on a plane so to see their child fly to other parts of the world brought so much joy but also fear to say what if our kids won’t come back,” Mwakapila told the ZamFoot Crew in an exclusive interview.
“It was very important as it paved a way for me and many of us so we can see how much we can offer and achieve to the beautiful game of football if we continue working hard as kids by then,” she added.
Women’s football world over has improved drastically but it has not always been that way and most parents are very skeptical about allowing their girls to take up football as a career but for Mwakapila it was a different story as both her parents gave her full support.
“I personally had full support from both my parents for they enjoyed watching me play. They have always loved it seeing me playing soccer and since I was young they would always push me to work hard and also concentrate in school,” she said.
Mwakapila recalls that the trip was not all about football as it had a lot of fun in it and allowed her and her teammates to mingle with people from different countries.
“I was a drummer also apart from just soccer so I enjoyed the part when it was fun time. Being young players from Zambia we would do so many traditional dances to show our friends from Norway and those are moments I really enjoyed because it was freestyle and we would mingle with different types of people from different countries who came for the same tournament hence allowed us to learn communication skills and also to know that it was not all about kicking the ball but also about bringing different individuals from different countries together.”
Zambia was placed in a group with Hvam & Haga, Tertness and Oppegård. They started the campaign with a 3-0 loss to Tertness then held Oppegård 1-1 before thrashing Hvam & Haga 5-0 in their final group game.
They bowed out of the main Competition after finishing third but had a chance to grab some silverware in the B plate finals but bad weather conditions could not allow the tournament to go ahead much to Mwakapila’s disappointment.
“Something bad that happened at the tournament was the time we were told that we won’t play the finals because of bad weather. I felt bad because I was hoping to score once more and make our team carry the day,” she said.
The scorer of the other goal in the 2-1 win over Cameroon earlier this month, Hellen Mubanga was also a member of the same team and was Mwakapila’s closest friend at the time.
At the tournament in Norway Zambia scored six goals with Mwakapila and Mubanga scoring three goals apiece.
“Mubanga Hellen the goal poacher was my closest friend though we are not that close today but we still friends, we have grown and discovered new friends now,” Mwakapila said.
Mwakapila and her Copper Queens teammates will, however, have to wait a little longer to make their debut at the Olympics after the tournament was moved to 2021 following the worldwide outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus.
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