Coach of Zambia Women’s World Cup team accused of sexual misconduct, report claims

Bruce Mwape was accused of coercing players into having sex

The coach of the Zambia team preparing to make its debut at the Women’s World Cup has been accused of sexual misconduct and the case was referred to world body FIFA last year for investigation, according to a report in The Guardian newspaper.

Bruce Mwape was accused of coercing players into having sex with him if they wanted to keep their place on the team, according to the report published by the British newspaper on Saturday.

Other Zambian coaches and officials were also accused of sexual misconduct and investigated, including the Under-17 girls’ team coach, according to the paper.

Zambian players celebrate after scoring their side’s second goal during the women’s international soccer match between Germany and Zambia at Sportpark Ronhof Thomas Sommer in Furth, Germany, Friday July 7, 2023. (Daniel Karmann/dpa via AP)

Zambia soccer association president Andrew Kamanga confirmed in a message to The Associated Press on Sunday that allegations of sexual misconduct were referred to FIFA and Zambian police last year and said it was “an old story.” Kamanga didn’t name any of the people facing allegations of wrongdoing.

In line with protocol, FIFA said its independent ethics committee would not comment on whether or not there was an investigation underway.

Zambia’s soccer association launched its own investigation last year but also didn’t name any officials, coaches or players involved at the time. The Zambian association said when it made the announcement in September that it was taking the allegations seriously.

But The Guardian quoted an anonymous source as saying that the Zambian association was “turning a blind eye” to the allegations because of the recent success of its women’s team under Mwape.

Zambia qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in 2021 and the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand, which starts this month. The men’s team has never made it to the World Cup.

Zambia on Friday had a surprising 3-2 win over two-time World Cup winner Germany in a warmup game for this year’s tournament. Zambia captain and star striker Barbra Banda scored twice, including the winning goal in the 12th minute of added time.

Banda has been at the center of another controversy for the Zambian soccer association after she was withdrawn from last year’s Women’s African Cup of Nations because of a bungled sex eligibility case.

Brazil’s Rafaelle, left, and Zambia’s Babra Banda battle for the ball during a women’s soccer match at the 2020 Summer Olympics, Tuesday, July 27, 2021, in Saitama, Japan. (AP Photo/Martin Mejia)

Zambia’s football association removed Banda from its squad for the tournament over sex eligibility rules despite Banda being cleared to play at the Olympics and at the World Cup. The association and the African soccer confederation blamed each other for mishandling Banda’s case.

Zambia is in Group C at the World Cup with Spain, Costa Rica and Japan and plays its first game against the Japanese on July 22.

Mwape was featured in an interview on the FIFA website in May, when he spoke about taking Zambia to the World Cup for the first time.

In the interview, he said that the team’s achievement had “changed football in Zambia” by inspiring many girls to start playing.

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