What a dream to achieve. The underdog excelled against all odds. Zambia’s national women’s football team, also known as the Copper Queens, qualified for the Tokyo Olympic Games in March last year. Few people would’ve predicted that the Copper Queens would qualify for the Olympics. But that’s what makes football so exciting, it’s unpredictable. This will be the first time the team will take part in the quadrennial multi-sport tournament and the second for the country since the men’s team took part in the 1988 Seoul Olympics.
After having an interesting journey qualifying and scoring a collective total of 13 goals against their opponents, the women’s team qualified for the Olympics. Originally set to start in July 2020, they are now set to begin in July 2021 in response to the coronavirus pandemic. Speaking to the team captain Barbra Banda about how the postponement had affected the Copper Queens she said, “The pandemic affected us a lot. We were disappointed not to play the Olympics after qualifying for the first time, but human life is more important so we understood and just remained positive and kept on encouraging each other.”
Against all odds Zambia’s national women’s football team, the Copper Queens, qualified for the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games. This is the first time the Queens have made it to the Olympics and they will also be the only African women’s team represented at the Games this year.
The Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) set up a number of friendly matches in the run up to the Olympic Games. Referring to these matches Barbara stated, “We are psyching ourselves to take these matches as any other matches looking at the big teams we will face. We are underdogs, yes, but we want to compete and not just add up numbers at the tournament.”
Late last year the Copper Queens travelled away to Santiago in a friendly match where they beat home side Chile, 2-1. In April this year, they lost 3-1 away to South Africa and had been scheduled to play Kenya at home but the match was canceled. They went on to play the Absa Cup final curtain-raiser match which was between the all-stars Olympic-bound team and the rest to a 4-1 victory.
Women’s football in Zambia is growing gradually. At the moment, the national women’s team has a few foreign based players such as the team captain who plays in China, Hellen Mubanga and Rachael Nachula in Spain, Hazel Nali and Mary Mwakapila in Israel and Rachael Kundananji in Kazakhstan, which is good as the international exposure brings about skills that are necessary to balance up the team’s capabilities.
The growth of women’s football has also attracted an emerging fan base not only for the national team but the local women’s league as well. In addition, the team has attracted corporate sponsorship in their quest to raise $2,000,000.
The Tokyo Olympics will be held from 23 July to 8 August 2021. The Copper Queens will be the only women’s team from the African continent. They have been drawn in Group F alongside Brazil, China and the Netherlands. The whole of continent will join Zambia in watching and supporting the women as they embark on this historic journey.
Copper Queens Star Player Focus
Grace Chanda – Striker
- 24 years old this year
- Currently at Red Arrows Football Club (Previously played for ZESCO United)
- First Zambian woman to score in a FIFA World Cup (2014 U-17 Women World Cup in Costa Rica)
- Scored eight goals during the Olympics qualifiers
She is definitely a star to look out for during the Olympics, along-side players like Captain Barbra Banda, Rachael Nachula, Rachael Kundananji, Hellen Mubanga and local based players Misozi Zulu and Rhoda Chileshe.