Tokyo Olympics: Zambia’s Copper Queens out to shine despite dented preparations

Written by on July 19, 2021

When you are preparing to make your Olympic debut against women’s football heavyweights and European champions, smooth preparations would help – but Zambia’s Copper Queens have had anything but.

The team upset all odds to become Africa’s sole representative in Tokyo, defeating 2019 Women’s World Cup qualifiers Cameroon in the play-off to take the sought-after slot above even the might of Africa’s record nine-time champions Nigeria.

Zambia have run headlong into a wall of challenges since their memorable qualification in March 2020, and the fact they have played only one friendly since can be blamed on the vast obstacle presented by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Nonetheless, the pre-tournament difficulties have done little to dampen enthusiasm, as team captain Barbra Banda – a forward who has also boxed professionally in the past – makes clear.

“It is so amazing and everyone is excited to represent the country – not just Zambia, but Africa at large,” she told BBC Sport Africa.

“It is a sign that women’s football in Zambia is going somewhere and we are improving each and every time.

“We are so happy as a team to represent the continent. It feels great because we worked so hard for it. I know we have a good team.”

That sole friendly – an impressive 2-1 victory against a Chilean side playing on home soil – came in December 2020, with a scheduled second game abruptly cancelled after several of the Zambia squad tested positive for Covid-19.

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