AFTER 33 years, our football returns to the Olympics at 13:00 hours Zambian time.
But this time, it is the women’s national football team, the Copper Queens that take on the experienced Netherlands at Miyagi stadium in Tokyo, Japan.
The last time Zambia played at the Olympics was during the 1988 games when the Kalusha Bwalya-led Chipolopolo mesmerised the world after thumping giants Italy 4-0 in Seoul, South Korea.
But it has been tough-going for the Chipolopolo since that time, with the men’s team successively falling short until the Bruce Mwape drilled Copper Queens topped Africa to pick the spot at the Tokyo games.
Reliable captain Barbra Banda and her coach Mwape believe that the underdog tag would work to Zambia’s advantage against the experienced Dutch side.
“As for me just to go through to qualify to this tournament, it has not been easy but we are here for a purpose. The team is very determined, the first game is very important for us to carry all the three points, that’s what we are working on as a team,’’ Banda said in her pre-match comments yesterday.
“I don’t have any pressure for now, just waiting for tomorrow’s (today’s) game.”
She said her team was going into the game with just one goal of getting three points, adding that the team would be looking to dominate their experienced opponents.
“Qualifying to these games, to the country is a very proud moment and it has a positive impact on our league, the women’s league in Zambia. It has really improved so much. It’s a must win game, though the Netherlands are experienced but we will try to dominate,” said Banda.
Mwape on the other hand said the Dutch experience would count for nothing if players played to his instructions of not giving the opposition team room.
He said his team had gained experience after playing in the women’s Africa Cup of Nations tournament.
“We know it’s Netherlands, a team with a lot of experienced players. We are coming here for the first time. We did well in the preliminaries to qualify to this stage, we are meeting experienced team, and our aim is to play a more compact game,” said Mwape. “The game is 90 minutes; they can have the experience but we will play our game. People think that we are under-dogs, but our players have gained the experience which they can use in tomorrow’s game.”