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Zambia women's football team welcomed at Tūrangawaewae Marae

Zambia captain Barbra Banda.
Zambia captain Barbra Banda. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Two cultures came together as the Zambian women's football team was officially welcomed to Aotearoa with a powhiri at Tūrangawaewae Marae at Ngāruawāhia.

But even the combination of waiata and African drums could not completely shake off the shadow cast by the allegations of sexual misconduct hanging over Zambia coach Bruce Mwape.

The Zambians were greeted by a fiery challenge, a challenge that was accepted by team captain Barbra Banda.

Kaumatua Dougie Turner welcomed the players to the heart of the Kīngitanga in te reo, name dropping Brazilian football legend Pele and Nelson Mandela - who once visited Tūrangawaewae - along the way.

And after waiata the Zambians responded with drum and song, and gifted their guests a team pennant.

Tawhiri Moanaroa, suitably impressed, let slip that football was somewhat of an alien game at Tūrangawaewae.

"As our kaumatua mentioned you've come to the heart of rugby and rugby league and soccer, sorry it's been shown we know more about the men than the women.

"Of course I grew up with legends like Pele and all those guys, but there's no doubt with the way you sang that song over there I think you guys have a lot of energy to take it out hopefully."

Zambia women's football team welcomed at Tūrangawaewae Marae.
Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Barbra Banda was happy to explain the performance.

"As a team we love singing, so it's just a song talking about when we look on how God has blessed us and everything. It is amazing for us and we really love singing."

There was no shortage of drummers in the squad.

"No, because we have people who can play the drums, we have people who can sing. We are always united and when things like this come up we know how to take it up."

Zambia women's football team welcomed at Tūrangawaewae Marae.
Zambia women's football team welcomed at Tūrangawaewae Marae. Photo: RNZ / Robin Martin

Barbra Banda could not avoid awkward questions about the allegations surrounding coach Bruce Mwape.

"On that I'm not in the position to answer questions on that because as a player my job is to do on the pitch not on the technical side.

"Mostly I think as players our mind is just on the pitch, the rest we just leave to the management and whatever come up it's up to them.

"Our job is to work on the pitch."

Mwape - who The Guardian reported was under investigation late last year over allegations of sexual abuse in the team - was at the powhiri but out of bounds to media.

When approached by RNZ the coach brushed of questions about the allegations before a minder stepped in.

"No, no. You can ask me another time, not today."

He would not elaborate on when he would answer questions about the allegations.

Meanwhile Banda, who plays club football in China, was hoping her young charges - fresh from a warm-up victory over Germany - could make it out of the group stage at the FIFA Women's World Cup.

The Copper Queens open their campaign against Japan in Hamilton on 22 July.