Why Zambian Barbara Banda Is an Icon in Women’s Football

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Men feature primarily in football, and so do women. Barbara Banda is part of Zambia’s evolution of women’s football. She’s contributed to the country’s major milestones. From the U17 FIFA World Cup, Olympics and the FIFA World Cup qualifications, Banda is already creating a legacy for herself. 

Additionally, she was once a boxer. Her talents proved too much to competitors, who didn’t want to fight her but switched to football when she landed a professional contract. Learn more about her story here. 

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Barbara Banda’s Early Life

spotcovery-Barbara Banda playing against Germany
Barbara Banda playing against Germany. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-4.0

Barbara Banda was born in Lusaka, Zambia. Her father played football and she took after him. The striker began playing football at the age of seven. She spent her early years playing for the boys’ team because the academy didn’t have a girls’ team. 

Banda was deeply involved in the game and her parents were concerned that football might interfere with her schoolwork. She worked around that with some trickery. 

Banda threw her football boots at the back of the house and walked out normally through the front door. Her parents weren’t suspicious of her but she continued to play the game behind their backs.

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Boxing as a Sport

Highlights of Barbara Banda. Video Credit: TR Sportzm

Alongside football, she picked up boxing. Banda was inspired by her compatriot Catherine Phiri and wanted to join the game. She explained how this happened to The Guardian.

“At the age of 11, I was coming from church with my mum I saw people in a gym and told my mum to ask if I could join them. She didn’t support this because she wanted me to focus on my schoolwork. I eventually joined but it took me two weeks to learn the drills,”

Her record in the game was impeccable. She was unbeaten at the amateur level and turned professional because other boxers refused to fight her. At the pro level, the athlete won all her matches but soon after got her professional breakthrough in football.

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Professional Football

Why Zambian Barbara Banda Is an Icon in Women’s Football
Barbara Banda with the ball on her feet. Source: Wikimedia licensed by CC-BY-SA-4.0

In 2018, Barbara Banda made history when she became the first professional female footballer in Zambia. Her first professional contract was with Spanish club EDF Logroño. Banda capitalized on the opportunity, scoring 16 goals in 28 games. 

“I had to choose one sport and that was football because I got a professional contract in Spain.”

Her football career took over sooner than she expected. In January 2020, Chinese club Shanghai Shengli paid $300,000 for the Zambian, which made her the third most expensive footballer. Banda won the Golden Boot after scoring 18 goals in her first season.

In 2022, she was about to join the Spanish club Real Madrid but the move didn’t happen after the controversy around her testosterone limits.

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International Career

Barbara Banda is a core part of the Zambia Women’s National Football Team. In 2014, she was part of the U17 side that qualified for the country’s first-ever international tournament. Two years later, the striker debuted for the senior team during the Women’s Cup of Nations qualifier and has been an influential figure.

Zambia didn’t make it but went on and achieved a lot on the global stage. In 2021, Banda equalled Christine Sinclair’s scoring record of six goals in a single tournament. She also scored two hat-tricks, something that’s never been done before in an Olympic-qualifying tournament.

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Gender Controversy

In 2022, Barbra Banda missed the Africa Women’s Cup of Nations (AWCON) in Morocco. The Confederation of African Football (CAF) declared that she failed to meet the DSD (Differences in Sex Development) rules. Her testosterone level was higher than the limit stipulated by the CAF. 

In her absence, the team qualified for its first-ever FIFA Women’s World Cup after a third-place finish at the AWCON in Morocco. Banda captained them in the tournament in Australia & New Zealand, scoring a goal against Costa Rica in the country’s maiden win. 

Barbara Banda is a player any coach would want in her team. She desires to be the best footballer in the world and she’s on track. She was about to join the Spanish club Real Madrid but the move didn’t happen after the controversy around her testosterone limits. Nonetheless, Banda is a world-class player and she’ll still get a chance to play for the best clubs. 

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