Record-breaker Kundananji was COSAFA starlet

When Racheal Kundananji became the most expensive women’s footballer in history this week, it was the latest chapter in a journey that started in the COSAFA Women’s Championship six years ago.

The 23-year-old Zambian moved from Spain’s Madrid FC to Bay FC in the National Women’s Soccer League in the United States for a fee of $860,000, considerably more than the previous record of $500,000 set by Keira Walsh’s when she moved from Manchester City to Barcelona in 2022.

It is a proud moment for Kundananji, Zambia, African football and also COSAFA, who have played a part in her development and path to greatness.

She was a virtual unknown in 2018 when she turned out for the Copper Queens at the COSAFA Women’s Championship, helping them to a semifinal place, though they would eventually finish fourth after losing the bronze medal match to Uganda.

She did not get on the scoresheet in that tournament, but proved she had enough to go all the way in the game and later that year excelled for Zambia at the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations with three goals in as many games.

Kundananji recognises the role the COSAFA Women’s Championship played in her career and ahead of the 2023 tournament had a message for the next generation of players at the regional finals.

“This is a chance for you guys, you need to use this chance don’t think ‘no, ngakwaba AFCON bakasenda abena Rachael’ come on, work hard, you can be on our positions even us [when] we are not there people will watch like ’we have the Copper Queens,’” she was quoted by Mwebantu.

“Copper Queens is not for Kundananji, Copper Queens is not for Babra Banda, Copper Queens is for everyone who play football in Zambia. You guys have to tight up your socks and work hard.”

Kundananji scored 33 league goals in 34 starts for Madrid FC, which led to Bay FC making their move.

“People in Zambia will be surprised but they will be so happy,” Kundananji told BBC Sport Africa. “A lot of people have encouraged me to work hard and some even said ‘maybe one day you’ll break some records’.

“This is the first one and I know there are more coming. I will do my level best and fight every time I play, like I always do. I want to give the [Bay FC] fans what they want – to enjoy the games, to enjoy seeing me playing and scoring.”