Credit: Chile Football Federation / McSport
Bruce Mwape interview on Women’s Soccer United
Bruce Mwape: We need more high profile friendly games with or without the pandemic
2020 was an unprecedented year, to say the least. For the Copper Queens’, it’s been pretty exceptional as career highlights have been overshadowed by the global pandemic, which has caused disruption and devastation to so many around the world.
Under the guidance of Bruce Mwape, Zambia Women’s National Team qualified for their first ever Olympic Games. But, under the current climate the road to Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games is on hold due to Covid-19 and preparations for the prestigious competition are hindered.
The highs and lows do not stop there, in November 2020, the Copper Queens travelled to play Chile for two international friendly matches. In the opening fixture, Zambia showed tremendous character coming from 1-0 down to defeat Chile 2-1, with goals from Barbara Banda and Racheal Nachula. The rematch was scheduled for 1 December at The National Stadium, but was cancelled due to 4 positive coronavirus test results, with another round of tests increasing the number to 7 positive cases. As per protocol, the whole squad went into the mandatory 14-day quarantine period at the Torremayor Hotel in Santiago.
Women’s Soccer United caught up with the Copper Queens’ head coach Bruce Mwape for an exclusive chat about his historic achievement, Olympic Games preparations and more.
Women’s Soccer United: Firstly, we hope you and all the Zambia women’s national team players and staff are doing well. How has the squad coped with the circumstances ahead of the second international friendly against Chile?
Bruce Mwape: We are all fine and the national team players are coping well with their training and ready to play any international friendly games.
WSU: You earned a great comeback victory against Chile. Can you talk us through the highlights of that match, and what impressed you the most about your team’s performance?
Bruce Mwape: What actually inspired most was the tactical approach of the game. We were able to defend as a team and attack as a team.
WSU: Had you done much team training ahead of these international friendly fixtures?
Bruce Mwape: We have not done much but we will start preparing very soon. The players are just training with their local teams.
WSU: Covid-19 dominated 2020 and beyond – as events unfolded, what advice did you give your players to help them cope and did you adapt your training to help the team maintain fitness?
Bruce Mwape: The advice that we gave the players is to be disciplined and follow Covid- 19 guidelines. We just gave them training programs for them to be training individually just to help maintain the fitness.
WSU: How has women’s football in Zambia been affected, both internationally and domestically, because of the coronavirus – do you envisage long-term detriment because of the outbreak and what do you think needs to be done in order to try to limit the damage?
Bruce Mwape: Since last year there has not been any league matches for women’s teams, the teams are just training until the association decides to lift up the suspensions. The teams just need to continue training.
WSU: In general, what have been the biggest challenges as a coach during the pandemic and have there been any positives to come from the whole experience?
Bruce Mwape: The biggest challenge is the selection of players to the national team because of the suspension of the league matches.
The only good part of it is that we have some professional players who are playing outside the country. Mostly, they are the ones that we are banking on because their league is still ongoing.
WSU: You made history guiding the Zambia Women’s National Team to Olympic Games qualification for the first time. Can you tell us about the journey to earning your berth at Tokyo 2020 and how proud are you of this accomplishment?
Bruce Mwape: It was not easy to qualify to Olympic games. The first game was a walkover against Angola because they withdrew from the competition. We won the other games but the toughest game was against Cameroon.
I am very much proud because I am the first Zambian coach to qualify the Women’s National team to Olympic games which will be held in Tokyo.
WSU: What was the reaction from your country on this historic achievement?
Bruce Mwape: The country went into a frenzy.
WSU: Tokyo 2020 has been postponed to the summer of 2021. How will preparations continue for you and the team during pandemic times?
Bruce Mwape: We need more high profile friendly games with or without the pandemic.
WSU: What are your expectations for the Olympic Games women’s football tournament?
Bruce Mwape: We expect the competition to be tough.
WSU: Could you describe the Zambia WNT playing mantra and who are the key players we should be watching out for?
Bruce Mwape: They have their own slogan before the game starts.
The key players are Barbra Banda team captain, Rachael Kundananji, Mary Wilombe and Rachael Nachula. These are some of our professional players excluding Mary Wilombe.
WSU: Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions.
The WSU Team bringing you news and updates from the world of women’s football.