The razzmatazz of the 2018 COSAFA Women’s Championships hit Nelson Mandela Bay on Sunday with the arrival of the Zambian national team ahead of the regional competition that will be staged from September 12-22.
Shepolopolo are the first of the 12 competing nations to arrive in the South African coastal town and were met by a delegation headed by Nelson Mandela Bay Executive Mayor Mongameli Bobani and Deputy Mayor Thsonono Buyeye.
They were greeted by music and fanfare, and also welcomed to the tournament by COSAFA Secretary General Sue Destombes and Chairman of Competitions Committee Timothy Shongwe.
Zambia’s Head of Delegation Rix Mweembe expressed his gratitude for the warm welcome, as did coach Beauty Mwamba and captain Mosozi Zulu.
Zambia, who have also qualified for the 2018 African Women’s Championship in Ghana starting in November, have been drawn in Group B at the COSAFA tournament along with Central African guest nation Cameroon, Lesotho and Mozambique.
They will get their campaign under way on Thursday against Lesotho at the Wolfson Stadium.
Hosts and defending champions South Africa are the top seeds in Group A and they will take on Botswana, Madagascar and Malawi in their bid to reach the semifinals for the sixth successive time in this competition.
Group C contains 2011 winners and last year’s runners-up Zimbabwe, along with Swaziland, Namibia and East African guest nation Uganda.
The first COSAFA Women’s Championship was held in Zimbabwe in 2002 and was won by South Africa, who beat their hosts 2-1 in the final.
Four years later and the South Africans triumphed again at the finals in Zambia, when they beat Namibia 3-1 in the decider. South Africa then made it three in a row when they beat Zimbabwe in the finals of the 2008 tournament in Malange, Angola.
Zimbabwe then claimed the title in 2011, when they also acted as hosts, defeating South Africa 1-0 in the final.
Banyana Banyana got their revenge in Bulawayo 12 months ago though as they ran out 2-1 winners, their fourth trophy win in five events.