Thursday, June 30, 2022

From being a ball girl to playing alongside her idols- The story of Esther ‘Gelo’ Banda

Zambia Women’s national football team will be taking part in their third Women’s Africa Cup of Nations next month as the cream de la cream of African Women’s football converges in Morocco.

Coach Bruce Mwape has named a strong 23 member squad for the tournament that will take place between 2nd and 23rd July, 2022.

The ZamFoot Crew now looks at the players who have made the squad for the 2022 Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON).

Esther ‘Gelo’ Banda is a new name in the senior Women’s national set up but has been steadily climbing the ladder from the Youth ranks.

The Bauleni United Sports Academy midfield general has been handed the jersey number 2 for the Morocco 2022 Africa Cup of Nations.

Originally a hard working defensive midfielder but she is also comfortable at centre back and coach Bruce Mwape seems more comfortable using her as a central defender.

Her story however is not different from most young Zambian girls, a big dream slowly coming to life through hard work and persistance.

The 18-year-old can vividly remember her days as a ball girl for the Copper Queens and cheering for players like Barbra Banda, Misozi Zulu and Grace Chanda who she is now playing alongside.

Esther Banda (in a green bib) in a tussle for the ball with China-based Copper Queens star Barbra Banda

It was always a dream for the Bauleni United Sports Academy workaholic midfielder to make it to the National team and play with her idols.

“I was happy to receive a call up to the senior national team because i was not expecting it. Iam now playing with players like Barbra Banda who I used to be a ball girl for, It is a dream come true. Iam gaining a lot of experience here,” Banda told the ZamFoot Crew.

“It’s not easy to find myself here. It’s just by God’s grace that am playing with these players. I watching what they are doing so that I can also become a top player.”

During a youth days, Gelo is remembered for her long range strike at Nkoloma Stadium against South Africa in March 2020 in a India 2020 FIFA Women’s Under 17 World Cup Qualifier.

Banda was a stand-out performer for the U-17 when they were denied a chance to lift their first COSAFA U-17 Women’s Championship in 2020 by poor officiating.

After which she graduated to the U-20 and the senior team. Gelo was part of the Copper Queens squad that traveled to play two international friendly matches against Chile in Santiago.

Gelo dreams of playing in Spain for one of the two historically biggest teams Barcelona Feminina or Real Madrid Feminina.

The Copper Queens start their campaign against Cameroon at the Mohammed V stadium on July 3 before facing North Africans Tunisia three days later. They will wrap up their Group B engagement with a tie against debutants Togo on 9 July.

The top four finishers in Morocco will qualify directly for the World Cup to be jointly hosted by Australia and New Zealand in 2023, while two additional teams will progress to the intercontinental play-offs.

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