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NWSL: Massive influx of top African players – At a glance

The U.S. National Women’s Soccer League (NWSL) is increasingly attracting the best players from the African continent. 2 Zambian players have recently joined, making them the 2 most expensive players in the world: Racheal Kundananji and Barbra Banda. What are the reasons behind these massive arrivals? A few players have their say.

In the recent off-season in American women’s soccer, there has been a massive influx of African players, the best to boot. Bay FC recruited Zambian striker Racheal Kundananji for 794,000 euros, making her the most expensive player in the world. The same team also lured Nigerian Asisat Oshoala, 7-time African Golden Ball winner and current title holder, and Ghanaian Princess Marfo.

Bay FC through Lucy Rushton, Bay FC General Manager spoke about the reasons behind the choice of six-time African Gold Ball winner, Oshoala. “Having the opportunity to add a player of Asisat’s quality, experience and winning track record to our roster is an exciting and important day for the club and the NWSL. She brings a first-class mentality to the field, combined with pace and technical ability that allow her to lead the line, while giving the players around her the chance to be creative and thrive in space. Asisat is a proven goalscorer at the highest levels of world soccer, and she comes here to build on that momentum with Bay FC.”

Also in the NWSL, Orlando Pride signed Zambian star Barbra Banda, who became the 2nd highest transfer record (680,000 euros). Kansas City Current recruited Malawian striker Temwa Chawinga, Tabitha’s sister. South African Linda Motlhalo has also returned to the NWSL with Racing Louisville.

The players’ explanations for choosing to join the US league

Midfielder Linda Mothlalo, from Louisville, gave her reasons for joining the league.“The league itself has developed so much and it’s so competitive and it’s probably one of the best leagues in the world. I’m on a team where they have a vision and they support women. That’s why I’m back in the NWSL.”

She believes, too, that other players from the continent have joined the American League, because it is one of the best in the world.“African players have talent and we’re capable of competing anywhere. And it’s just to show the world that we can compete anywhere we go and we have talent and as I said, the NWSL is one of the best leagues.”

Kundananji, by joining Bay FC has become the most expensive player in the world. The former Madrid CFF player spoke of her personal choice. “I don’t know what motivated the other players’ choice. But for me, I just want to live a new experience and it’s my dream to do it in the United States of America”, says the player who was piling up the goals in Spain. The lure of the USA spoke for itself.

The financial aspect also seems to weigh heavily in the choice of African stars to play in the NWSL. This is acknowledged by Christopher Atkins, Kundananji’s agent, in an interview with ESPN.“There’s obviously an influx of money on the American side.They’ve signed a TV deal worth $60 million a year for the league, which is [almost] four and a half million per club just outside of the TV deal without other sponsorships and stuff, so there’s a lot of money,” he says.

NWSL versus Europe

There is one debate, however. It’s about the quality of the US women’s league compared to those in Europe. South Africa’s Mothlalo believes the levels are equal. “In general, women’s soccer is developing. When I was here in Houston, there was a tournament where the number one team in this league played the number one team in the European league. North Carolina Courage won that tournament, so that’s saying a lot, but I feel that now, the leagues are getting better, so it’s going to be really hard to say which league is the best,” she finishes by saying.

The tournament she’s talking about is the Women’s International Champions Cup.
It brings together the best American and European women’s soccer clubs.

The tournament took place in 2018, 2019, 2021 and 2022.It brought together the 4 best teams in North America and Europe. It has been won twice by NWSL clubs (North Carolina Courage and Portland Thorns) and twice by Olympique Lyonnais.

 


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