Lusaka – The Zambian government will do all it can to ensure the women’s Olympic football team gets all the moral, financial, technical and health-related support it requires as it gets ready to participate at the Tokyo Games.
Shepolopolo is the only female team from Africa to make the cut for this year’s Olympic football tournament. The other Zambian medal hopefuls at the sporting showpiece include three boxers, two swimmers, two runners and a judoka.
At a recent send-off dinner for Team Zambia at the Japanese Ambassador’s Residence in Lusaka, Secretary for Sports John Phiri assured the athletes of the government’s full support at the July 23 –August 8 Tokyo Games.
Japanese Ambassador to Zambia Mizuuchi Ryuta also said the government in Tokyo was pulling all the stops for athlete safety in light of the COVID-19 pandemic that led to the postponement of the Games last year.
“The Japanese Government is making every effort from all fronts to make the Olympic Games possible and we are committed to ensuring that athletes from Zambia and all over the world get the required support before, during and after the games,” Ryuta said.
National Olympic Committee of Zambia secretary-general Boniface Kambikambi weighed in: “I must say there that we are proud of the positive government leadership which has ensured that these Zambian athletes have the opportunity to fly our Eagle (national bird) at the Tokyo 2020 Games.
The women’s football side Shepolopolo, or the Copper Queens, are confident of making an impact at the Olympic Games, though skipper Barbara Banda bemoaned the fact that two preparatory friendlies against Kenya and Mozambique were cancelled due to COVID-19.
“We have been in camp for so long and we need friendlies so that we are able to see how we are moving as a team,” striker Banda said. “So far we have not had any international friendly games and we need friendly games to see where we are going and where we are up to.”
Spain-based forward Hellen Mubanga also said there was need for friendly matches ahead of the team’s July 7 departure for Asahi in Japan to acclimatise before the Games start.
The Bruce Mwape-coached team is in Group F along with China, Brazil and the Netherlands.
It will be a tough campaign for Zambia. The Netherlands were runners-up at the Women’s World Cup two years ago and are the European champions. China are a women’s football powerhouse and were runners-up at the 1999 World Cup, while Brazil were silver medalists in 2007. Brazil have two silvers from the 2004 Games in Greece and the 2008 Games in China. China won silver at the 1996 Atlanta Games.