Zambia’s Kundananji lifts the earnings power of Africa’s women footballers with a world record transfer fee

Zambia’s Kundananji lifts the earnings power of Africa's women footballers with a world record transfer fee. [Graphics: Hope Mukami]

Zambian footballer, Racheal Kundananji is now the most expensive female player in the world, underscoring the increasing business value and surging demand for African football talent globally.

Bonface Orucho, bird story agency

Racheal Kundananji, a Zambian woman professional footballer, has become the first African football player — male or female — to break a world transfer record. This milestone reaffirms the growth of African women’s football, not only in skills and development but also in commercial terms.

The forward from Spanish women’s league side Madrid CFF signed with California-based women’s soccer club Bay FC for a record US$787,000 plus add-on costs, making her the most expensive female player in history.

“People in Zambia will be surprised but they will be so happy… I want to give the fans what they want—to enjoy the games, to enjoy seeing me play and score,” Kundananji told BBC Sport Africa.

Kundananji’s transfer fee eclipses the former record held by Colombian Myra Ramirez, whose January 2024 transfer from Levante to Chelsea FC was valued at more than US$450,000, according to Reuters.

While a new record, Kundanaji’s signing fee is still dwarfed by fees for Africa’s top men’s players. The US$88 million transfer fee for Nigerian Victor Osimhen, from French club Lille to Italy’s Napoli in 2022, outstripped Ivorian Nicolas Pépé’s US$80 million move from Lille to Arsenal in 2019 to make Osimhen the most expensive African footballer globally.

Other African names that have made waves in the global transfer market in the past include Congolese player Cedric Bakambu, who signed for Chinese club Beijing Guoan from Villareal in 2018 for US$71 million.

Kundananji’s transfer, however, reaffirms the growing recognition of African women footballers, globally.

A January FIFA report, ‘Global Transfer Report 2023′, highlighted the rising demand for African women footballers, with global clubs in Europe and beyond increasingly looking to the continent for fresh talent.

The report showed more than 260 female players were transferred to clubs outside the continent during 2023. This is a significant rise from the less than 60 women footballers that landed spots in clubs outside Africa in 2020.

23-year-old Kundananji joins Nigerian legend Asisat Oshoala at Bay FC after the latter recently transferred to the club from Barcelona. Also at Bay are Ghana’s Princess Marfo, Malawi’s Temwa Chawinga, and South Africa’s Linda Motlhalo.

Beyond the financial and business triumph of Kundananji’s record transfer, she serves as an inspiration for the more than 150,000 registered female players playing professional football under CAF.

According to BOLA News, Kundananji has metamorphosed from playing low-tier football in Zambia to setting a world transfer record in less than 8 years.

After starting a football career with Konkola Queens in Chililabombwe, Zambia, she moved to Indeni Roses in Ndola in 2017, where she scored 21 goals in 18 games in the Football Association of Zambia (FAZ) Women’s Copperbelt provincial league.

This earned her a spot at the 2018 Women’s Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON), where she played for the national team and scored three goals in three matches.

She played her first international football outside the continent at the BIIK Shymkent in Kazakhstan before being signed by Spanish Liga F side, Eibar, in 2021, moving to Madrid CFF in 2022.

Her impact at the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup in Australia, which was also her first appearance at a World Cup, saw her score her first career World Cup goal in a 3-1 win over Costa Rica in the group stage.

In her 18-month stay in Madrid, she scored 33 goals in 43 games. In the league alone, she scored 25 goals, making her the league’s second-highest scorer.

“She is a tremendous talent with dynamic attacking qualities and an incredible physical profile who has produced for both club and country… She has composure in front of goal and a natural ability to score with different types of finishes and from various locations,” Bay FC General Manager Lucy Rushton said in a statement.

“We believe she will continue to grow and develop at our club, showcasing her skillset and adding to the array of exciting attacking talent we have here,” she added.

According to women’s football news platform The Equalizer, Kundananji will be one of the highest-paid players in the league. The deal with Bay FC will pay her more than US$2 million during the contract period.

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