Zambia captain Barbra Banda has been ruled out of the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations after failing gender eligibility tests.
Despite being allowed to play in last year’s Olympic Games, the 22-year-old forward has failed to meet the criteria required by global governing body Fifa, whose gender rules the Confederation of African Football (Caf) defers to regarding WAFCON.
“All the players had to undergo gender verification, a Caf requirement, and unfortunately she did not meet the criteria set by Caf,” Andrew Kamanga, the president of Zambia’s FA (Faz), told BBC Sport Africa.
“It’s unfortunate that we find ourselves going into the tournament without our best players.”
Zambia opened their Group C campaign with a 0-0 draw against three-time runners-up Cameroon on Sunday and face Tunisia on Wednesday prior to finishing the group with a clash against debutants Togo at the weekend.
Banda shot to global prominence when becoming the first player to score back-to-back Olympic hat-tricks in Tokyo.
When asked by BBC Sport Africa on Sunday how it was possible for Banda to have played in the Olympics but not at WAFCON, Caf’s communications director Lux September responded by saying “there is no such decision from the Caf medical committee”.
The answer has irritated Kamanga however, who has told BBC Sport Africa that “whatever happened was purely a Caf requirement”.
Banda – who was pulled from the squad by Faz after she failed the verification on the eve of the finals – is one of the most prolific strikers in African women’s football and is currently in Morocco and training with the Copper Queens squad, despite being unable to play.
“Everybody at home [in Zambia] has been made to believe that Faz did nothing and decided on their own to exclude the player,” Kamanga added.
“We the federations are compelled to undertake the tests and then we pass on the information to Caf, and Caf, equally, test the players if needs be in the tournament.
“So it will be unfair to turn around and say Caf is not part and parcel of whatever has transpired.”
BBC Sport Africa understands that three other Zambian players were affected by gender eligibility but chose not to feature for the national team, whose squad features 22, rather than the permitted 26, players.
Banda was originally named in Zambia’s WAFCON squad after taking medication to help reduce her levels of testosterone, which are naturally overly-high, but she has still not met the regulations, BBC Sport Africa understands.
The forward is contracted to Chinese side Shanghai Shengli but is reported to be on the verge of a possible move to Spain’s top flight.