Two hat-tricks in two games: Zambia goal machine Banda taking the Olympics by storm
Barbra Banda has played two matches at an Olympic Games – and she is already in the record books.
She is the first woman to score two hat-tricks in one women’s football tournament, the top scoring female African player at the event, and has already matched the record for the most goals in one campaign, with six in her first two outings.
What makes all of this even more incredible is the fact that the 21-year-old has done it all with Zambia, the lowest-ranked nation at the tournament.
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Their defending in Japan might have been a little chaotic, but Zambia have wreaked havoc in the other half. In their first game, they lost 10-3 to the Netherlands. In the second, they drew 4-4 with China.
Supported by a talented cast of less high-profile names, such as Grace Chanda and Hellen Mubanga, Banda scored hat-tricks in both.
For those aware of her career, the form she has shown on the world stage will be of no surprise. The third-most expensive women’s footballer in the world, goals have followed her everywhere she has gone.
For those that have not heard of this young star before, that likely relates to the fact that this is her first appearance in a global tournament and that she plays her club football in the not-so-visible Chinese Women’s Super League.
Before her move to Asia, Banda was in Spain, scoring 15 times in 28 games for a Logrono side who were battling relegation upon her arrival.
Last year, she won the Golden Boot in her first campaign with Shanghai Shengli – scoring an incredible 18 goals in 13 games.
"I have made my name [in China], everyone is talking about me, which is a good thing. Wherever you go, you just have to do your best," Banda told Reuters at the end of last season.
"It's not that I am the best, but I think it's the effort that I am putting in. Because talent can be there but if I am not determined, I can't go anywhere.”
That determination was already evident when she was a young girl. With her parents frowning upon her desire to play football, Banda would sneak out to do so, throwing her boots out of the window and collecting them on her way out to quell their suspicions.
However, after striving to balance school with football, and then winning her first national team call-up, her parents were soon onboard, with the 21-year-old picking out her dad as a big inspiration and supporter.
Banda’s hard-working attitude towards the game means it is no surprise to hear who her footballing idol is, either.
“I like the way Cristiano Ronaldo plays. I like his discipline,” she told the official Olympics website. “I have the same strength. I run a lot and do the dribbles. I can do something where you did not expect anything, and you'll just be like, 'Okay, Banda just did that!'”
A quick, strong forward, Banda also has great awareness of where her team-mates are and the ability to pick them out. Sometimes running through on goal herself, and sometimes drifting out wide to create for others, her game has proven a nightmare for defenders to cope with so far this summer.
Zambia may struggle to make it out of the group stage. They need a win against Brazil in their last game to get through as one of the best third-placed teams, but she and her team-mates have already helped put the country on the map in women’s football this month.
With major tournaments often proving to be a great window for players, it could be a big platform for this exciting team in the future. The experience will be invaluable, too.
“I am still young, still playing and developing my football, so I dream big,” Banda said. “I want to be among the top. That is my biggest dream, to be among the top girls in the world. My aim is to leave a mark, my own name, my own record book.”
She has already made a start on the latter – and she is likely to add to it before her time in Japan is done.
Even if that does prove to be just one more game, Banda has shown that she can do more in 90 minutes than most.