It’s usually mentioned that girls’s soccer won’t develop and develop till groups are given extra worldwide fixtures to play, and Zambia’s Copper Queens are the shining instance of this. One in every of their present stars is goal-scoring midfielder Ireen Lungu.
ZAMBIAN WOMEN’S FOOTBALL HAS SEEN A meteoric rise within the final 12 months, culminating within the nation’s first-ever qualification for the 2023 FIFA Ladies’s World Cup that will likely be staged in Australia and New Zealand.
The aspect is reaping the reward of their very own onerous work, but in addition the publicity they gained to the worldwide stage once they managed to qualify for the Olympic Video games held in Tokyo final yr. It’s usually mentioned that girls’s soccer won’t develop and develop till groups are given extra worldwide fixtures to play, and Zambia’s Copper Queens are the shining instance of this. One in every of their present stars is goal-scoring midfielder Ireen
Lungu, who performed each minute on the Olympics and adopted that up by taking part in all six video games as Zambia took the bronze medal on the 2022 Ladies’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) and in doing so certified for the World Cup.
She paints an image of a aspect who have been fearful to play on the worldwide stage, however have gained confidence with each outing they’ve had.
“The Olympics was the place it began, that have we had, and we carried that into the WAFCON and gained much more from that event,” Lungu tells FORBES AFRICA.
“We got here up towards some nice gamers and that took our confidence to a different stage once more.
“However the Olympics’ expertise was powerful. Many people had by no means performed towards white folks earlier than, however after the primary sport, the place we misplaced 10-3 to Netherlands, that really boosted our confidence. It sounds unusual, nevertheless it did.
“We might see the extent and felt that we might go greater ourselves. In each sport after that we improved and that
eliminated the concern we had from each participant. It became an awesome event when it comes to serving to us to develop and enhance.
“If I have a look at how we’ve got progressed from earlier than then, we typically struggled to show our greatest soccer purpose now we’ve got a number of gamers who’ve competed on the highest stage.
“Everybody [back home] now desires to compete and be a part of the nationwide workforce, which makes for larger competitors amongst gamers.”
That was not the one spotlight for Zambian soccer. Lungu’s membership Inexperienced Buffaloes lately certified for the CAF Ladies’s Champions League in Morocco later this yr, and in doing so beat present African champions Mamelodi Sundowns, who had a star-studded line-up.
It’s but extra continental publicity for Zambian soccer.
“We have been so pleased to beat Mamelodi Sundowns, they’re an excellent workforce with high quality gamers in comparison with what our golf equipment have again in Zambia,” Lungu says. “That is as a result of in South Africa there are lots of sponsors [for women’s football] in comparison with what we’ve got at house.
“That’s beginning to change, there’s sponsorship coming in and now it’s as much as everybody to indicate that enchancment and why corporates ought to put money into ladies’s soccer.”
Lungu says the altering face of the sport in Zambia is pleasant, as is the multitude of alternatives supplied to younger ladies in comparison with when she began out and was pressured to play in boys’ groups.
Although she credit that for her fast growth.
“I began taking part in in 2007 after I was nonetheless in Major Faculty. I used to play with the boys there. There was no ladies’ groups the place I used to be staying again then so I used to be very used to taking part in with and towards boys. That was my solely alternative,” she says.
“When there was the prospect to play with ladies, I really discovered it very onerous to take action as a result of all I had identified to that time was taking part in with boys. It was a giant adjustment. I attempted to discover a higher workforce with ladies who knew learn how to play soccer. I discovered the usual too low.”
She additionally admits to the truth that, definitely 15 years in the past, attitudes in the direction of ladies taking part in the game weren’t as they’re as we speak.
“It was fairly powerful as a result of the place we come from the dad and mom do not need to will let you go and play [if you are
a girl], so it was very onerous for me. However I needed to rise up for myself and say, ‘that is what I need and nothing will cease me from taking part in’.
“I’m the place I’m as we speak due to willpower and self-discipline. I’m additionally a really hard-working participant.”
She’s going to hope a optimistic exhibiting on the World Cup places her in line for a contract overseas, and with it the prospect to go absolutely skilled as a footballer.
“That is the factor now I’m pushing for now. I do not need to be in my nation anymore, I need to go and play in new leagues. That may be a huge ambition of mine and one thing I’ve to work further onerous in the direction of,” she says.
“I want to go to any nation so long as there’s competitors, however Spain appears like an excellent choice. I need to compete with nice gamers in order that I can enhance my very own stage.”