from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – BY breaking into the rankings among the world’s top 100 female football national teams, thanks largely to a surprise qualification for the Olympic Games, Zambia has underlined its emergence as a force in the female version of the beautiful game.
Weeks after the Copper Queens booked their historic berth at the Games that have since been rescheduled in Tokyo, Japan next year the Federation of International Football Association (FIFA) disclosed the team made the biggest move up the annual global rankings.
The Zambians are now ranked 100th after climbing six positions.
The Southern Africans were also the biggest move by points Zambia (up 31) in the FIFA/Coca-Cola Women’s World Rankings.
Recently, after the Copper Queens made the first time in 32 years that Zambia would have a football team at the Olympics, Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) President, Andrew Kamanga, hosted the victorious side in the capital Lusaka.
Barbara Banda, the Chinese-based captain, summed the qualification campaign that successfully ended with Zambia’s defeat of Cameroon on the away goals rule, after 4-4 tie.
“We showed our commitment and delivered the results which everyone was expecting,” she said.
To say everyone expected Banda and her troops to knock Cameroon out is somehow an overstatement by the Shanghai FC forward, considering The Indomitable Lionesses’ pedigree.
The first leg in Yaoundé ended 3-2 in favour of the Central Africans.
Southern African sides have in all versions of the game mostly played second fiddle to their counterparts from that part of the region as well as the North and West blocs.
Kamanga lauded their prospects.
“I hope we will continue building on our fellowship as we look to go to the next challenge which is the Olympics,” the FAZ boss said.
The Chipolopolo Boys, a Facebook group page by passionate supporters of local national teams, paid its tribute to the heroines.
“This right here is nothing short of remarkable! The strides women’s football has taken the past few years is amazing – long may it continue,” the administrator stated.
The recent achievements represent a purple patch for the women’s sides.
Last year, Zambia were runners-up in the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) Women’s Senior and Under-20 Championships.
The Under-17 side finished third in their category.
– CAJ News