By Jeff Kapembwa
Lusaka - Zambia’s women under 17 football team earned the sole automatic ticket from Africa for a debut at the Tokyo Olympic global sporting showpiece in July after humbling much favoured Cameron 2-1, but doubts about the event linger due to Covid -19 global outbreak.
In the first leg in Yaoundé, the star-studded Indomitable Lionesses earned a 3-2 comeback win when Aboudi Onguene's brace along with Ajara Nchout's strike subdued the visitors after Grace Chanda's double.
Undaunted by the defeat in the first leg, the Bruce Mwape drilled side, captained by Barbara Banda and playing before a partisan crowd, used all their energy and found an early breakthrough through striker Mary Mwakapila who scored for the hosts in the 15th minute.
Diminutive Barbara Banda breezed past her marker from the left wing to brilliantly set up Hellen Mubanga, who tapped in the second from close range to make it 2-0 seconds prior to the half-time break.
Cameroon, under the tutelage of Alain Djeumba, not to be outdone, pulled one back through ace striker Nchout in injury time. This was after Zambia was reduced to 10-men after Martha Tembo was sent off. Zambia qualifies on a 4-4 aggregate on an away goal rule.
The win, earning Zambia’s qualification to the championships slated for between July 24 and August 9, makes the Southern African country the third to be part of the horde of teams at the Japan event.
Besides Zambia, South Africa made it to the Olympics Summer games in 2012 and 2016 with Zimbabwe in 2016. However, the participation of Zambia and holding of Olympic Games this year hangs in the balance as cases of Covid-19 infections sweep across the world.
With reports indicating more than 4,200 fatalities and 119,000 having contracted Covid-19 worldwide since its outbreak in Wuhan, China, last December, global health experts and the event organising committee are casting doubt over the Olympic Games in the absence of a cure.
A member of the Tokyo 2020 organising committee's executive member, Haruyuki Takahashi, who is one of the executive board's 25 members, is cited by the Wall Street Journal this week as saying that other alternatives — such as holding the games without spectators or canceling them altogether — would have significant financial ramifications, which makes a postponement the most likely alternative.
"I don’t think the Games could be canceled. It’d be a delay," Takahashi said. "The International Olympic Committee would be in trouble if there’s a cancellation. American TV rights alone provide them with a huge amount."
The IOC and the organising committee have repeatedly said the Tokyo Olympics will go on as planned, beginning July 24. And officials from both groups avoided publicly discussing any possible contingency plans for the Tokyo Olympics, to the point of claiming that a final decision on the Games has already been made.
"The decision is that the Games will go ahead," IOC spokesperson Mark Adams said at a news conference in Lausanne, Switzerland last week. "That was made some time ago. We see no reason to change that decision."