from ARNOLD MULENGA in Lusaka, Zambia
LUSAKA, (CAJ News) – BY winning the Council of Southern African Football Associations (COSAFA) Women’s Championships, Zambia has underlined its increasing status as a dominant force in the region and emerging powerhouse in the continent.
The global stage is on the horizon.
The Copper Queens claimed gold at the annual tournament held in South Africa following a solitary extra-time goal at Isaac Wolfson Stadium in the Nelson Mandela Bay on Sunday.
Captain Barbra Banda netted to end the hosts’ resistance and close a 20-year pursuit of the regional title by Zambia.
“I’m lost for words,” she said post-match.
The skipper hailed the team as a “great group.”
President Haikande Hichilema was among the first to congratulate the team as excitement swept through the nation.
“Hearty congratulations to the Copper Queens for lifting the COSAFA Women 2022 trophy,” Hichilema stated.
To cap a successful tournament, the Copper Queens claimed the individual accolades as Banda won the Player of the Tournament. The Lusaka-born lady’s impressive haul of ten goals secured her the Golden Boot.
Catherine Musonda won the Golden Glove for best goalkeeper.
The success in South Africa adds to the Zambians’ extraordinary recent success.
The Copper Queens won a bronze medal at the 2022 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) finals in Morocco in July, earning a first ever qualification for the Federation of International Football Associations (FIFA) Women’s World Cup.
At the conclusion of WAFCON, Zambia were the biggest movers in the (FIFA)/Coca-Cola Women’s World Ranking, shooting 23 places up to 80th.
The World Cup is scheduled for Australia and New Zealand in 2023 when Zambia will be the continent’s representative alongside Morocco, Nigeria and South Africa.
The victory on Sunday thus was sweet revenge for Zambia after South Africa knocked Zambia at the semifinal stage en-route to winning the WAFCON.
South Africa has emerged a favourite hunting ground for the Zambians and the two nations have a knack for dramatic encounters (South Africa won the WAFCON semifinal with a stoppage time penalty).
In August, Zambian champions Green Buffaloes won the COSAFA Women’s Champions League, which served as the qualifier for the continental tournament set for October/November in Morocco.
Buffaloes beat reigning champions, Mamelodi Sundowns of South Africa, 6-5 on penalties at the Sugar Ray Xulu in Durban.
The rise of the Copper Queens is a source of inspiration for the nation that has seen its most popular national side, the men’s senior national team, enduring a decline.
Chipolopolo (The Copper Bullets) have been on a spectacular decline since winning the 2012 AFCON.
They have failed to qualify for the past three editions of the men’s prime football tournament.
Football is an emotive subject in the Southern African nation of 19 million people.
In 1993, the finest generation of Zambian players perished when a plane transporting them to a men’s World Cup qualifier against Senegal crashed into the Atlantic Ocean shortly after taking off from Libreville, Gabon.
All 30 passengers and crew, including 18 players, coach Godfrey Chitalu and support staff, died in the accident.
Following the global outpour of grief, Zambian sides have been a favourite for neutral fans.
– CAJ News