Zambia’s women’s national team could be disqualified from the Paris Olympic Games after allegations of money laundering and “undue influence by third parties” against the football association’s president. 

The team faces suspension by FIFA after president Andrew Kamanga, who has been president of the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) since 2016, was last week accused of using almost $25,000 of government money that he obtained under false pretences to fund trips for two of his associations to the Africa Cup of Nations in Ivory Coast this year.

FAZ general secretary Reuben Kamanga was also arrested and charged, in addition to two others who travelled to the tournament as part of the association’s delegation.

The charges also include money laundering and conspiracy to defraud, which all four men deny.

A women's soccer team wearing white and green uniforms celebrate with a referee next to them

Zambia made its Women’s World Cup debut last year.(Getty Images: Phil Walter)

Following these charges, Zambia’s High Court issued an injunction preventing FAZ from holding its annual general meeting, which raised red flags with FIFA, the global football governing body.

FIFA’s member associations officer, Kenny Jean-Marie, subsequently wrote to FAZ stating that a failure to hold the AGM “appears to clearly amount to undue influence by third parties”.

He noted “with great concern” the charges against Zambia’s president and general secretary, and requested documents and additional information relating to the case.

The letter said that the cancelled AGM could result in Zambia’s suspension from all international competitions, which would mean the women’s national team, which qualified for the Olympics for the second time ever this year, may be disqualified before a ball is kicked.

FIFA has previously suspended nations where governments or courts have interfered in the running of member associations, such as India, Zimbabwe and Kenya in 2022, as well as Nigeria in 2014.

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“The order of the High Court of Zambia dated 24 April 2024 appears to clearly amount to undue influence by third parties which could be considered as a violation of Article 19 paragraph 1 of the Fifa Statutes and Article 7 paragraph 1.g. of the CAF Statutes,” the letter said.

“For the avoidance of doubt, please note that the infringement of the aforementioned provisions of the FIFA and CAF Statutes may give rise to grounds for the suspension of FAZ irrespective of whether the infringement was attributed to FAZ or not.

“We would like to remind you that a suspended member association may not exercise any of its membership rights. The representative teams as well as the affiliated clubs of this federation can no longer take part in international competitions until the suspension has been lifted.”

Zambia qualified for the Olympics after defeating Morocco 3-2 in a two-legged continental play-off this year. The side was drawn into Group B with Australia, Germany, and the USA.

FAZ issued a statement on Monday confirming that “a FIFA ban would mean non-participation in the Olympics for our Copper Queens, Chipolopolo [the men’s senior team] won’t take part in FIFA World Cup qualifiers, Under-17 girls will forfeit qualifiers for the World Cup, with the women’s senior national team barred from participating in the WAFCON [Women’s African Cup of Nations] that they have already qualified for.”

It added that it was “hopeful” of finding a resolution before the suspension occurs, and that it “has taken it upon itself to be fully compliant of all the possibilities that may ensure that Zambia averts a possible ban from FIFA”.

Bruce Mwape looks at the camera

Zambia women’s national team coach Bruce Mwape is also allegedly under investigation by FIFA.(Getty Images: FIFA/Jan Kruger)

If Zambia is suspended from the Olympics, the team could be replaced by Morocco in Group B.

The senior women’s team is being led by head coach Bruce Mwape, who is believed to be under investigation by FIFA after allegations of sexual misconduct before and during the 2023 Women’s World Cup. He has denied the claims.