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The Many Firsts Of Barbra Banda; Zambian Football Olympic Heroine

July 30, (THEWILL) – As the female football events continue today with the quarter-finals fixtures of the Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, one player that will be conspicuously absent because Zambia did not make it past the group stages will be their sensational record-breaking striker, Barbra Banda.

The 21-year-old whose determination to be the best football player in the world was on course in her brief time on the biggest sporting stage, seized the opportunity of Zambia’s participation in the football games to not only announce herself to the world but write her name in the history books with her record-breaking performances.

Banda may have only played three matches in all but needed only two in her Olympic debut to rewrite every African goal-scoring record in Olympic history and enter the records for goals by a female player across board. She did this from a tough group of countries that included the 2019 FIFA Women’s World Cup finalists Netherlands, China and Brazil.

In Zambia’s first match, they endured a drubbing from the Dutch team, but the only consolation they took from losing 10-3 in last Wednesday’s Group F Olympic football opener, was that it was a debut hattrick for their goal-scoring heroine. A hattrick is no easy feat, nor is scoring against the Netherlands.

Banda demonstrated that it was not a fluke when she followed that impressive performance up with another hattrick in Zambia’s second group game against China to establish herself as a force to reckon with in front of goal and take her well-earned and deserved place in the chronicles of Olympian record-setters.

The back-to-back hattricks made the Shanghai Shengli striker the first woman ever in Olympic history to score two hattricks at the games. She also become the first woman to score back-to-back hattricks at a single Olympic tournament.

Although she did not find the back of the net in their last Group F match against Brazil, Banda’s six goals in two games, were enough to give the Copper Queens’ captain the lead in the goalscoring standings at the women’s football event.

As massive as all these stats are in her favour, the record-setting does not stop there. Banda’s Olympic exploits made her the all-time women’s African top scorer at the Olympics, as in one fell swoop, she blazed past the overall record of the previous best, Nigeria’s Mercy Akide-Udoh’s four goals consisting of two goals each at the 2000 and 2004 Games.

In just Banda’s first two group matches, she equalled the 2012 record set by Canada’s striker Christine Sinclair for the most goals scored in a single event. She also drew level with the record of the most goals scored by an African, including the men, equalling the feats of compatriot Kalusha Bwalya and Ghana’s Kwame Ayew, both of whom scored six in 1988 and 1992 respectively.

To those who have followed her rise, the latest achievements at the global stage will come as no surprise. Banda was on hand to help Zambia overturn a 3–2 first-leg defeat to beat Cameroon 2-1 at home and force an away 4–4 draw, through which the She-polopolo qualified on away goals for the first time in their history to the Olympics.

In her development as a player, the 21-year-old joined Logrono in Spain in 2018 to become the first Zambian to secure a professional contract abroad. She established herself in the league as a goal-scorer with 15 goals in 28 games. However, six months into her two-year deal, she moved Asia in January 2020, and signed a three-year deal with the Chinese club Shanghai.

Such was her clinical prowess in front of goal that her impact in her debut season was instant. Banda emerged as the Chinese Women’s Super League top scorer with 18 goals in 13 games.

She may have exited the grand stage of the Olympics with only a point in three matches from their Saturday, July 24, 4-4 draw with China when she netted her record-setting second hattrick, but the world is definitely going to remember the name Barbra Banda and she is set to do more to fulfill her dream of becoming the best in the world.