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Zambia gears up for 1st FIFA Women's WC appearance amid sexual misconduct allegations

Players of Zambia line up for a photo before a women's soccer match against Brazil at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Saitama, Japan.   -  
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Martin Mejia/Copyright 2021 The AP. All rights reserved


A first group of Zambia's Copper Queens arrived in Auckland New Zealand on Monday (Jul .10).  A second group of players is set to land on the island on July 11.

The squad's arrival in one of the two countries hosting the 9th FIFA Women's World Cup came after a training camp in Germany.

The session ended on a high note as the Zambians defeated Germany on July 7 in a friendly ahead of the World Cup. Prior to that, the Queens drew 3-3 with La Nati (Switzerland) in a pre-World Cup friendly on June 30.

The Copper Queens are one the 4 African teams taking part in the international tournament starting July 20.

Coach Bruce Mwape hailed the progress of his team taking part in its first ever FIFA Women's World Cup.

"It only shows that even in our region football has actually improved. For us to get to the World Cup, it means we are doing fine. In fact, we are not the only country representing the region even South Africa has also qualified for the World Cup."

Striker Barbra Banda will be allowed to captain Zambia during the international competition. The promising career of the 23-year-old was thrown in doubt when she was excluded from last year’s African Cup of Nations in a sex eligibility case mishandled by authorities.

While officials blamed each other, Banda was forced to sit out the tournament and endure scrutiny about her sex.

The Copper Queens however managed to get a best-ever semi-final finish.

"She’s got [Editor's Note: Banda] the chance this time to show the world that she can be the best. Just from qualifying to this World Cup. If we go as far as the knockout stage. I’m sure that people will be able to know her very well.”

The head coach said the team's objective was to reach the knockout stage.

"That is our priority. We want to get to the knockout stage. What comes after that will be a bonus," Bruce Mwape said.

The Copper Queens will face 2011 World Champions Japan in their Group C opener before meeting Spain and Costa Rica.

Allegations of sexual misconduct

Zambia's build-up to World Cup has been overshadowed after the head coach was accused of sexual misconduct, a report claims.

According to an article an article by The Guardian, Bruce Mwape was accused of coercing players into having sex with him if they wanted to keep their place on the team, according to the report published by the British newspaper on Saturday.

Other Zambian coaches and officials were also accused of sexual misconduct and investigated, including the Under-17 girls’ team coach, according to the paper.

Zambia soccer association president Andrew Kamanga confirmed in a message to The Associated Press on Sunday (Jul. 09) that allegations of sexual misconduct were referred to FIFA and Zambian police last year and said it was "an old story." Kamanga didn’t name any of the people facing allegations of wrongdoing.

In line with protocol, FIFA said its independent ethics committee would not comment on whether or not there was an investigation underway.

Zambia’s soccer association launched its own investigation last year but also didn’t name any officials, coaches or players involved at the time. The Zambian association said when it made the announcement in September that it was taking the allegations seriously.

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