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‘I only think about the ball’: How Zambia’s Kundananji avoids pressure of world record transfer



Racheal Kundananji, the Zambian forward whose transfer this year to the U.S.-based National Women’s Soccer League set a world record, is trying to shed the pressure that came with her club’s splashy signing.

The $785,000 deal that sent her from Spain’s Madrid CFF to Bay FC (2-0-2) in the San Francisco Bay Area made her the most expensive female soccer player ever.

After the deal became public, she said she received text messages here and there about the news with lots of misunderstandings about the money. Getting on the field with her new team has helped alleviate that stress.

“I just had to talk to myself and say I have to go out and do my job. My job is to play football. Never think about other outside things, because when I’m on the pitch, I only think about the ball. I don’t think about other things,” she told Reuters at training in San Jose on Wednesday.

Bay FC head coach Albertin Montoya said he has tried to avoid making a big deal of the record signing. Instead, he’s focused on integrating her into the team and watching her flourish.

“She’s deserving of it. And as soon as we saw how much she enjoys the game, we knew that nothing needed to be said,” Montoya said.

Her start was delayed two games due to a knee injury picked up on international duty, but she wasted no time in getting on the scoresheet, scoring an equalizer in added time before losing to Houston Dash.

“It was emotional. You know, I was so excited and, you know, because this is my first time to join a team and on my first debut to score,” said Kundananji, who credited her teammates and coaching staff for setting her up for success.

Kundananji isn’t the only African player who is finding her stride in the U.S. this season. Her teammate, fellow striker Asisat Oshoala, hails from Nigeria and also scored in her debut match with the team.

Uchenna Kanu, a forward from Nigeria, has scored three goals in four games for Racing Louisville FC, while Temwa Chawinga of Malawi has scored two goals for league leaders Kansas City Current.

Their presence in the league has given Kundananji comfort in her new season.

“It means a lot. You know, when we come here, we are not like from different countries. We are like sisters in the same country because we are all from Africa,” she said. “That’s why we are there for one another. And we always push one another to work extra hard because we know why we are here and we know what brought us here. So, I feel so excited seeing my fellow Africans doing well in all the teams that they have joined.”

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