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President Hakainde Hichilema has paid tribute to the Zambia Women National Team’s performance at the 2022 TotalEnergies Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) despite their 1-0 semi-final loss to South Africa on Monday evening.

A late second half penalty in additional time gifted South Africa a 1-0 win and their back-to-back finals appearance and relegated Zambia to a third/fourth playoff match against Nigeria on Friday 22 July.

In a rare telephone call to the Copper Queens shortly after the game, Hichilema congratulated the team for the impressive performance displayed at the WAFCON despite a ‘contestable penalty’ that decided the match.

“That was a contestable penalty, the goal is a questionable penalty, and I think we should really look into it carefully it was outside the box but you did a fantastic job, you have done a good run up to now, semi-final is good, you qualified to the World Cup (and) we are proud of you and on behalf of all Zambians we are proud of you, feel happy don’t be depressed,” Hichilema said.

“Mulimbe ma ladies (stay strong ladies), you have done a wonderful job, mwagwila nchito yaikulu maningi ngako (you have done a very commendable job), you have made us proud, we are proud of you, you have really nothing to apologise about to feel sad about you have done a good job, next time you will be there.’

Hichilema has always been in tune with the Copper Queens performance at the WAFCON. Last week, he led the nation in congratulating the Bruce Mwape coached side for securing a FIFA Women’s World Cup spot for the first time in the country’s history.

“Many people who were watching like us have questions about that penalty but well done, keep the spirits of the girls and the whole team high. You are going to the World Cup, we are all behind you, we will do our best as a government and the people of Zambia are behind you, we wish you well,” the Head of State said.

Hichilema said he understood the pain of getting defeated in the last minute but urged the players to be professional throughout the tournament in Morocco.

“Just play the game you love so much. You love soccer, go out and play and play with your hearts, with your mind, with your body, do what you decided to do as professional soccer players, do just that and we are all behind you,” Hichilema said.

‘We thank the coaching team, don’t be depressed as I said, you have done a fantastic job, remain strong. You are professional players and a professional behaves in certain ways when you haven’t won the game especially like this one where it is contestable whether that was a penalty or not. You just keep your heads high, keep going.’

Copper Queens coach Bruce Mwape thanked Hichilema for taking time to call the team before assuring the Head of State that the team will make sure it carries the day in their third placed playoff match on Friday.

“We want to say thank you for the words and cheering the girls, I think the team will remain in good spirit and we are looking forward to the next game that we have and we appreciate your support,” striker Barbara Banda said.

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