INDENI Rosesâ€™ rise to the pinnacle of the 13-team Copperbelt Women League is a good sign of good tidings for womenâ€™s football in the country.
The Roses bloomed within two years of joining the league and dislodging former champions Moba Queens who had dominated the league since its inception in 2010.
Mobaâ€™s main opponents during their domination were Zesco Ladies who are an extension of the elaborate Zesco United Football Club.
Zesco Ladies, Unitedâ€™s efforts to play a part in the development of womenâ€™s football, brought a new dimension to the league as they are highly motivated and attract quality players.
After Moba won the league four years in a row, it was the immaculately dressed Zesco Ladiesâ€™ sideâ€™s turn to win the title in 2015 and new-comers Roses picking it in 2016.
Roses ended the league with 68 points, a point above Zesco who had 67 while Moba were in distant third on 61 points.
Despite Moba and Zesco Ladies monopolising, credit should also go to Nchanga Queens, Mufulira Wanderers Angels, Luanshya Municipal Council, Miracle Rangers and Chambeshi Queens for giving the two a good run for their championship.
However, after a few years and with the coming in of club licensing, in 2015 Indeni Petroleum Refinery formed a womenâ€™s football club – Roses – which in its debut year brought competition and deservedly finished third.
The club was pioneered by the likes of Thomson Chikumbi, the chairman, Millinga Muyunda, Shone Nashol Zulu and Elestine Nasulu Phiri.
The executive underlined its ambition of being contenders for the title by recruiting highly rated Robbson Simukonde, aka Paul Louis Mfede, who was coaching Division Three Kwacha Stars and Simba school.
Other recruits were Florence Sikabeta as second assistant and Enala Phiri Simbeye coming from Power Girls of Lusaka as first assistant coach to complete the technical bench.
Simukonde was tasked to recruit players and identify good talent among the players who were invited for trials and come up with a competing team.
Rosesâ€™ notable players in 2015 were hot-shot Noria Sosala who scored 42 goals in 2015 and 74 goals this year, centre-forward poached from National Assembly, and attacking midfielder Theresa Chewe plucked from Red Arrows to bring the much-needed experience. Chimwemwe Mwale, Sandra Salima, Rosemary Nyambe, Esther Nawila and Grace Nanyiza and Grace Zulu, a central defender, were the other influential players in 2015.
The Roses started the 2016 season fuming by embarking on what seemed to be an impossible mission to change the face of the Copperbelt league by winning the league championship only in their second season.
â€œThe league was very competitive and tough although we managed to beat the leagueâ€™s favourite teams Moba Queens and Zesco Girls. [The] most notable games were the derby with Zesco Girls which we only played only 35 minutes in the second half with two of our players having been red carded but managed to beat star-studded Zesco 2-0. These two teams were the defending and former champions respectively and have the experience in the league,â€ Simukonde said.
Simukonde commended his fellow technical staff members for a good working relationship.
He also praised sponsors Indeni and the club executive for believing in the team.
â€œIndeni and the executive have done a lot as they provided all the incentives, namely winning bonuses. Monthly upkeeps are paid on time, I can proudly say our incentives are even better than some of the menâ€™s FAZ Division One teams,â€ bragged Simukonde.
Commenting on his teamâ€™s 0-3 loss to Midlands league champions Green Buffaloes at Nkoloma Stadium in Lusaka to decide the countryâ€™s ultimate national champions, Simukonde said the army club were a better team on the day.
Simukonde has predicted a tough 2017 season.
â€œIt will be tough going by the way our players of the right age have improved their soccer in their respective teams and can proudly say womenâ€™s football is drawing interest amongst the girl children. I can see a bright future for our national teams as most of the womenâ€™s teams are coached by qualified coaches and not forgetting for the first time coming of the national championship which was contested between Buffaloes and Roses.â€
He said with the reported intention of the league the womenâ€™s league becoming national will make it stronger and more attractive soccer.
Simukonde says it will make the selection of national team players easier and help She-polopolo coaches have a better view of players for selection.
â€œThe Copperbelt league which was not competitive, has now become more organised and very competitive which has narrowed the gap between Midlands and Copperbelt.
In Zambia, the talent is there and all that is needed is the motivation from the Football Association of Zambia,â€ he said.
The author is editorials editor at the Zambia Daily Mail.