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Zambia qualifies for first World Cup without star Barbra Banda

Goalkeeper Hazel Nali scored the game-winning penalty kick for Zambia. (Pablo Morano/BSR Agency/Getty Images)

The Zambia women’s national team clinched its first World Cup berth Wednesday with a win over Senegal in penalties, and the team did it without star Barbra Banda.

Zambia and Senegal played to a 1-1 draw, but Zambia took the victory with a 4-2 edge in penalties. Goalkeeper Hazel Nali scored the decisive penalty kick to send the team to the semifinals of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations and its first World Cup.

Yet the team has had to play the whole tournament without one of its best players in Banda. The 22-year-old was ruled ineligible after her testosterone levels were said to be above those allowed by the Confederation of African Football, ESPN reported.

“All the players had to undergo gender verification, a CAF requirement, and unfortunately she did not meet the criteria set by CAF,” Andrew Kamanga, the president of Zambia’s soccer federation, told BBC Sport Africa ahead of the Cup of Nations. “It’s unfortunate that we find ourselves going into the tournament without our best players.”

Her ineligibility for the tournament came after she competed at last year’s Tokyo Olympics. There, she became the first player to score back-to-back hat tricks in Olympic competition. After the Summer Games, though, the Zambian federation was informed that Banda’s testosterone levels were outside CAF guidelines, according to ESPN.

Banda was left off Zambia’s Cup of Nations roster after she opted not to take hormone-suppressing treatment, as did three other Zambian players, according to ESPN.

“Many players can be affected by these regulations, and football is their livelihood. I think the CAF regulations are a lot more stringent [than Olympic regulations], and they put too much stress on testosterone levels,” said Sydney Mungala, the communications director for Zambia’s soccer federation.

While a CAF official told the BBC’s Osasu Obayiuwana that Zambia never submitted Banda’s name for selection for the tournament, the Zambian soccer federation said in a news release it merely followed CAF guidance and decried CAF’s attempt to pass the blame as “grossly unfair.”

Zambia will face the winner of Thursday’s match between South Africa and Tunisia in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations semifinals next Monday.