A couple of months ago, former Banyana Banyana star Khabo Zitha received an inbox from a Zambian international. The short, sharp message went straight into Zitha’s Mamelodi XI Stars’ Facebook page.
Naturally, one would ignore a plea to play football, especially from someone who says she is in Zambia because of the logistical nightmare. But Zitha’s instinct was to give this young lady a shot. Little did she know that she was bringing a striking dynamo with shades of Veronica Phewa.
“I followed the team on their Facebook page, and I requested for a club contact. Luckily, I was able to reach Khabo Zitha, and we started talking until a point we facilitated my move,” Zambia international Lilian Kunda tells FARPost.
Kunda was turning out for one of her home country’s biggest clubs ZESCO United, but the 21-year-old was prepared to join the great trek, having heard of the strides women’s football in South Africa has made strides.
The evidence is in the pudding. The reigning African champions – Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies – are resident in Pretoria, right where her coach Zitha cut her teeth as a footballer starting in the ’90s.
For Zitha, whose dream is to give girls in the capital an opportunity to make waves in far-flung lands, the timing of Kunda’s move seemingly had the backing of the heavens. It came at a time when Thabiso Mohlala had left the club.
“I used to play in defence [left-back], I’m left-footed, but here I switched to being a striker after the coach saw great potential in me. I think I’m doing well at the position as I have 10 goals so far,” says Kunda.
Of course, it had to take Zitha’s meticulous eye to notice she had a potentially deadly striker in the Zambian defender. Her gamble was soon to pay off as she started scoring goals for the team in the Safa Regional League.
“In four games, Lilian had scored ten goals,” she explains. “Her arrival gave us a bit of diversity in the team, and she proved to be a massive replacement.”
The talented attacker has vowed to work hard and develop into a top striker. “I’m enjoying playing football here in South Africa, it’s a different setup, but at the end of the day, football is football. I believe I have settled well in a good team, with good teammates and a great coach.” Kunda told FARPost.
She has played for her country’s Under 17 national team before progressing to the senior squad. “My dream is to become a top striker here in South Africa; I’m gunning to become a top scorer in the league. That will open doors for me to fulfil my dream of playing football overseas.”
Additional reporting by By Nkosikhona Ziswana and Rebone Kotsedi