Barbra Banda has become the unlikely goalscoring star of Tokyo 2020
Zambia skipper achieved the rare feat of six goals in two matches for the debutants
“I am aiming to become the best footballer in the world”
Christine Sinclair, Vivianne Miedema, Marta, Sam Kerr. The scorers’ list on the opening matchday at the Women’s Olympic Football Tournament read like a who’s who of goalscoring greats. Alongside them was a new name; Barbra Banda. The Zambian skipper netted a powerhouse treble against European royalty and FIFA Women’s World Cup™ runners-up Netherlands on Wednesday. Was it a one-off? Not a chance. Banda ran the China PR defence ragged three days later with some supreme athleticism and more top-drawer finishing to produce a second successive hat-trick – an unprecedented achievement in women’s Olympic football history. Banda has also already equalled the record single-tournament mark of six goals set by Christine Sinclair at London 2012 - a feat matched by Netherlands' Miedema later on the matchday. All this in 180 minutes from an unheralded 21-year-old leading the line for a nation ranked 104th and making their major tournament debut. Make no mistake, Banda has been a tour de force. And she is not finished yet. “I am aiming to become the best footballer in the world,“ Banda told FIFA.com minutes after the match, the happy afterglow of personal achievement evident in her face.
The match against China had added personal resonance for Banda who joined Shanghai Shengli last year following a stint in Spain. Banda’s Zambia were 3-1 down and seemingly on the ropes in the first half, but the young captain’s zeal is infectious and the Copper Queens were ultimately unlucky not to claim all three points. It was, of course, a long way from a record 10-3 defeat on the opening day when the tournament new faces displayed plenty of rawness. “There was a lot of improvement,” said Banda. “But what we really wanted most was the win. Coming back from down ... I like the team spirit we have. “It was our first time in a big competition for most of the girls, and I think they have gained morale now. We have a strong feeling that we can do something in the third match [against Brazil]. In the next game, we want the three points.”
Banda and Co are bringing a lot of joy to their compatriots. The nation’s young football side make up 22 of the 30 athletes sent by the landlocked Central African nation. “They are happy with our performance,” Banda says of reports from back home. “Looking at the team that we have, they know we are doing something big for our country." The point against China means Zambia are still alive in the competition and Banda still has ambitions for Tokyo 2020. Another goal would give her the unlikely status of being the highest scorer in a single tournament. “I have not set the number of goals that I will score [in Japan]. I just want to score as many goals as possible and every chance I have I want to take it. “I’m very proud of myself, and also the team because without them I cannot score. It is good to make history when you have the opportunity. So I just have to keep working hard and making more history. “I still have a long way to go [as a player], I just have to be disciplined.”
Zambia coach Bruce Mwape believes Zambia are here to stay as a force in women’s football provided they are correctly resourced. As for his young prodigy, Mwape is happy to heap praise for her work on and off the field. “I have seen her grow from scratch. She is always learning and is one person that wants to learn every day, her training attitude is different from others. Others playing are learning from her. In the future we will produce some Barbra Bandas. “I would like to one day see her become one of the world’s greats and we want everybody to know that we can also produce world stars.”