Racheal Kundananji is a real goal machine. It was for this reason that Bay FC acquired her services. Source: Imago Images
Racheal Kundananji is a real goal machine. It was for this reason that Bay FC acquired her services. Source: Imago Images

The world’s most expensive football player brought a new country to the football lovers’ map

Football OlyBet 03.03.2024

There probably aren’t many OlyBet.TV readers who would know anything about Zambia. The most they would know is maybe the fact that it is an African country. Some of you probably know that their flag has a green background and there are also some colors and an image of a bird, and true geography buffs also know that the capital is Lusaka.

But we are sports fans, and thanks to Racheal Kundananji, we can now talk about Zambia as a football country. Because it is from that African country that the current world’s most expensive female soccer player comes.

Namely, Bay FC, a member of the US Women’s Premier League, or NWSL, paid €805,000 for the 23-year-old center forward. With this, Kundananji became the most expensive female soccer player in history, taking the title from the Colombian Mayra Ramirez, who moved from Levante to Chelsea just three weeks earlier (€500,000).

Hiding her love for football from her parents

Kundananji’s story is made more amazing by the fact that she is not a product of some top academy, but a primordial talent from the Black Continent. He has always been attracted to sports, but as a child, Kundananji did not dare to admit it to her parents. This is how she often pretended to be visiting her friends, while in fact, she was chasing a football stuffed with hay or plastic on the sand fields with the boys.

In the end, of course, Kundananji’s parents figured it out, but they didn’t make a big deal out of it. Her mother, who worked in a copper mine, simply assumed that it was another phase in the child’s life, so she saw no reason to do anything. Fortunately for all of us, although no one realized it at the time. Least of all Kundananji herself.

“I loved football growing up – sometimes I even skipped school to play football,” she has recalled. “But it wasn’t a career choice for me. It was just nice because I loved football. At that time, I didn’t even know that women’s teams existed, I didn’t follow women’s football.”

Source: Imago Images

Champion of Zambia and Kazakhstan

While having fun, however, Kundananji’s talent grew and finally she caught the eye of Inden Roses in her home country, who attracted her to their ranks. It was a smart move as it was 17-year-old Kundananji’s goals – 21 in 18 games – that helped them become Zambian champions in 2018.

Kundananji, who blossomed for Roses, did not stay in her homeland after that but moved to Kazakhstan after coming of age, where she became only the second Zambian woman in history to sign a professional football contract. BIIK Kazygurt offered him a two-year, $1,500 monthly contract.

In Kazakhstan, Kundananji continued with the same success, helping the club to become the national champion in both years, after which she moved on to the Spanish Premier League, Eibar. There, Kundananji took some time to adjust, but in 21 games she still managed to score eight goals. However, it was not enough for Eibar to stay in the Premier League.

However, Kundananji had made a mark with her performances and after being relegated, Madrid CFF came knocking on her door – not to be confused with Real Madrid – who saw potential in the Zambian. And it was in Madrid that Kundananji truly blossomed.

Prohibition due to testosterone

Unfortunately, this blossoming also had a dark side, which was evident when representing the homeland. Although while playing for Zambia she has been more in the shadow of strike partner Barbra Banda – whose rise to stardom began at the Tokyo Olympics when she became the first woman to score a hat-trick in two consecutive games – Kundananji has also already left her mark on the international scene. The 22 goals speak for themselves here.

This number could even be higher, but now we come to the mentioned downside. Namely, she and three other players (including Banda) were removed from the Zambia national team in 2022, as their testosterone levels were too high for the Confederation of African Football, which conducted the testing.

To return to the team, all of them would have to undergo hormone therapy, but the players categorically refused. Although the issue even reached large human rights organizations (eg Human Rights Watch), it was of no use, and all four players had to miss the 2022 Africa Cup of Nations.

Goals came from all sides

Everything that Kundananji failed to do in the international arena, she did in the Spanish Premier League. She scored 33 goals in one and a half seasons, in other words 43 matches for Madrid CFF.

Last year, she was able to show her abilities again on the international stage – FIFA rules regarding hormone levels are more lenient – by scoring a hat-trick against Morocco and helping Zambia to a 3-2 victory over Germany with his goal.

Based on such performances, Kundananji caught the eye of Bay FC, who bought her from Madrid CFF in mid-February for €700,000 (€35,000 had to be paid in addition to the parent club and €70,000 went to other legal expenses).

As the cost to get Kundananji was significant, the Americans also did everything they could to tie the attacker to them for as long as possible: thus they shook hands for as many as 4+1 years, during which the Zambian earned up to 2.5 million euros.

A big surprise for mom

“People in Zambia are certainly surprised by this transition, but also happy at the same time. In my career, many people have teased me and told me that “maybe one day you will even break records”. This is the first one like this, but I know there are more to come,” Kundananji commented on his transition and revealed that just like when she was a child, she kept her football related dealings in secret from her mother.

“I just told her that I had signed a new contract and that something big was coming, but I didn’t tell her that I was going to be the most expensive player in history. I wanted it to be a surprise for her because my mother is my biggest role model,” said the Zambian.

“I’ve learned a lot from her – work hard and never give up. If you are good at something, you have to keep that dream in mind. I want young girls to do the same: do what you love.

Many parents force us to do things that we don’t really love, but that’s how we grow up with regrets. Choose your own job, work hard, and then, as time passes, your parents will also support you on this path,” said Kundananji inspiringly.


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