Zambia's goalkeeper Catherine Musonda (C) celebrates with her team after winning the International friendly football match Germany vs Zambia in Fuerth, southern Germany, on July 7, 2023, ahead of the FIFA Women's World Cup.

Zambia's goalkeeper Catherine Musonda (C) celebrates with her team after winning the International friendly football match Germany vs Zambia in Fuerth, southern Germany, on July 7, 2023, ahead of the FIFA Women's World Cup.

Photo by CHRISTOF STACHE/AFP via Getty Images.

Zambia's Women's Soccer Team Makes Historic World Cup Debut Amidst Allegations of Sexual Abuse

Zambia's Copper Queens shine in World Cup debut despite controversy, making history for women's soccer.

Zambia's national women's football team, fondly known as the Copper Queens, is set to embark on their first-ever World Cup journey on Saturday (July 22) as they face Japan at the Women's World Cup hosted jointly by Australia and New Zealand. The team's remarkable success has sparked enthusiasm among young women across the country, inspiring them to embrace the sport. However, the team's image has been marred by allegations of sexual abuse by certain coaches, which are currently under investigation by Zambia's football association.

The Copper Queens received a rousing welcome upon their arrival in New Zealand for the prestigious tournament, a testament to the excitement and support they have garnered from fans not only in Zambia but also from around the world. The team's participation in the Women's World Cup represents a dream come true for both the players and their supporters, who have been rejoicing in anticipation of the historic event.

Comprising mostly of players from low-income backgrounds, the Copper Queens have overcome numerous challenges to reach this milestone, becoming a beacon of hope for aspiring female footballers in a country where the sport has long been dominated by men.

"We regard ourselves as a big team that can challenge any other team in the world," proclaimed a team representative, highlighting the Copper Queens' confidence and determination.

Drawing attention with their exceptional performances, the Copper Queens have scored an impressive nine goals in their last four matches. In a morale-boosting victory just before their World Cup debut, Zambia triumphed in a friendly match against Germany, currently ranked second in the world. The team captain, 23-year-old Barbra Banda, showcased her brilliance by securing a 3-2 victory with two crucial goals, including a remarkable 102nd-minute winner against the two-time world champions.

Despite their success on the field, the players' journey to the Women's World Cup has been far from easy. Many of the team members grew up playing football in less-than-ideal conditions, often without grass on pitches and lacking basic equipment such as cleats. Despite these hardships, they persevered, dedicating themselves to the sport they love and ultimately achieving their dream of competing at the highest level.

However, amid the excitement and anticipation, the team's participation has been overshadowed by troubling allegations of sexual abuse by certain coaches. According to recent reports from British media, some players have come forward, claiming that coaches have demanded sexual favors from them. The Football Association of Zambia has acknowledged the seriousness of these allegations and stated that they have taken internal measures and involved law enforcement authorities. The matter has also been reported to the International Association Football Federation (FIFA), which is conducting independent investigations.

Sydney Mungala, spokesperson for the Football Association of Zambia, called upon the Zambian public to rally behind the team and not let these allegations tarnish this momentous occasion. Mungala assured that they are committed to preserving the team's glorious moment at the World Cup.

Amid the controversy, Zambia stands out as one of the few countries advocating equal pay for both female and male players. The Zambia Union of Footballers and Allied Workers Union is actively collaborating with the Football Association of Zambia to ensure fair working conditions and contracts for female footballers, with a goal of unionizing all players.

As the Copper Queens step onto the global stage, they carry the dreams and aspirations of young women across Zambia and beyond, proving that determination and talent know no gender boundaries. Their historic World Cup debut is a testament to their resilience and a beacon of hope for a brighter future for women's football in Zambia.