My Injury Is Not Life Threatening That I Should Leave The World Cup

In fact The Technical Bench Initially Thought I Was Faking The Injury

Yes! We Protested, As A Team, Over Allowances Before The Ireland Friendly

Copper Queens first choice goalkeeper Hazel Nali has revealed that her injury is not life threatening to warrant her exclusion from the 2023 FIFA Womens World Cup describing the announcement that she was heading for treatment and subsequently being excused from the competition as surprising and devastating.

Speaking in an EXCLUSIVE interview with this writer Friday, July 15, 2023, Nali says she was in the dark about circumstances surrounding her injury and the subsequent decision to exclude her from the competition.

The player has since declined to append her signature on a consent form that would be sent to FIFA announcing she was no longer part of the Zambian delegation as no convincing explanation has been availed to her on the injury and treatment process.

Nali, the goalkeeper who scored the winning penalty and saved another in the Womens Africa Cup of Nations (WAFCON) quarterfinal against Senegal to inspire the Copper Queens to a maiden World Cup in Australia and New Zealand by reaching the last four, says she has failed to understand why she has been treated like an alien on the team she has served for 11 years.

Although Nali admits that she is injured, she doubts it is the reason she is being asked to leave the competition.

The situation is that yeah, I am injured. So, I got injured before the Germany game. I got injured in training and when I got injured, the technical bench didnt believe that I got injured. They were saying I just faked it.

When they were saying that, I was in a room with Barbara Banda who called the coach just to confirm everything because he never asked me what the situation was or how I was feeling.

So I told Barbara, looking at where we have come from. I told her to say, can you call the coach to say what he thinks about me or how he sees things so she called the coach and the coach didnt know that I was there [in the room].

So thats how he explained to say that, ah on Hazels situation, all that we are seeing is that she is faking an injury. She doesnt even have any pain.

So, I stayed quiet. I didnt say anything. Then after three or four days, I said okay let me prove a point to everyone that I am really in pain because I am the one feeling it. Then I told the medical team that let me go for training and try, so that’s how I went for training and I got twisted because my knee was weak. We were playing a ka small-sided game then I got twisted again.. Thats how come I didnt manage to finish that training session, she narrates.

Nali explains that when she picked the second knock, the medical team appeared to pay a little more attention but there was demand from the goalkeeper coach for an urgent assessment to determine the way forward.

From there thats where maybe they believed to say I was really injured. So, the goalkeeper coach gathered me and the medical team to say the team wants to know if this injury is very serious so that we replace you because we are not ready to start nursing injuries at this point.

So thats when the medical team told the coach, no she was injured, when she got injured everyone was there so how is it hard for you people to understand to say that she is injured.

And that was after the final team was announced. So for them, they were assuming to say that just because the final team has been announced I amuh faking the injury. So, thats how that discussion ended. And they said, we will do an MRI for her to see what the problem really is but we didnt manage to do it from Germany because we were leaving the following day.

So, then thats when they said, go with the team then we will have the MRI done as soon as you reach New Zealand. So when we came here [in New Zealand], we had the MRI done but the results werent given to the doctor there and then. The [MRI] doctor said he will send them to the [team] doctor. So later in the evening thats when the doctor came into my room to say the results have been sent.

And they didnt show me the results. And I havent seen them up to now. So thats when they started saying one of your ligaments in your knee has been torn so you need to undergo a surgery.

So I started asking to say if really one of the ligaments in the leg has been torn, how come I am able to walk, I am able to do everything. I am not limping. The only pain I am having is when I bend my knee besides that I am not having any pain, she explained.

Nali says she did not get convincing answers on the prognosis of her injury.

So for them they only said ah, we dont know but thats the report we have got so you need to go back to Zambia and wait because the surgery has to be done if not from Zambia then India or South Africa. So they told me you need to go to Zambia then after you are in Zambia they will start processing.

But again in that statement the doctor said when you are in Zambia they will start assessing you again or maybe theyll need to do other tests. So, I was confused. I didnt reply to anything at that point.

So thats when I sat and I told the captains and some of the players in the team. So everyone was surprised and they were shocked because looking at what the doctors examined and how the situation seems, it seems to be different, she said.

Nali engaged team captain Barbara Banda to reach out to FAZ officials to clarify the situation.

So I called Barbara again. I told her, no you are in the right position to talk to the GS or the TD at FAZ. And ask what really the problem is. So she called again in my presence including some other players, the senior players. She was asking the TD first to say whats the situation, we are just from reading because I confronted her when it was published to say I have been ruled out of the FIFA World Cup because of the injury.

So then they said she has an injury but she needs to fly back to Zambia so that she can have some tests done and later on she can fly to do her surgery. So Barbara said, we had an example of me, there was me at the WAFCON, I was there with the team. I didnt play in any of the games but I sat with the team and I benefited from whatever they got so what is the difference with Hazel and her being here? So they said no, we have already done the arrangement of replacing her and if she has to stay then we need to negotiate with her about the allowances.

So then she [Barbara] asked again to say but how do you have to negotiate with her because she was already on the list and she is already in the FIFA system? He then said no, I will call you back. Thats when he had to cut [the line], she added.

Nali said since FAZ technical director Lyson Zulu did not give a satisfactory explanation, the team captain then reached out to FAZ General Secretary Reuben Kamanga.

And from there Barbara again called the GS. The GS started explaining, no I am not there physically but I am entrusting in the medical team and the medical team are the ones that have given me the information to say she is unable to walk, she is limping so she needs medical attention as soon as possible so thats why we wrote to say she needs to fly back here and make arrangements on whats next.

Then Barbara asked the GS to say, how about the allowances, how is it going to work out because she was already on the list. So for him, he just said ah thats not a problem we can handle that. I was there and Barbara said Hazel is here, you can talk to her so I started talking to him. So for him, he only gave me an assurance to say I will give you a call because right now I am busy. I will give you a call when I am done with the meeting. Then I said, oh okay.

That was the day before yesterday [Wednesday] in the night. So, from then he didnt call up to today he hasnt called me to tell me about anything. So thats when we sat and Barbara again went to the coaches to find out because from the time I got injured, none of the coaches have come to ask me okay, how are you feeling? Is it really that you cant do anything? You cant manage to do anything or maybe are you progressing on the injury? None of them they took the decision when they were thinking to say I faked an injury. That’s when they decided everything so what followed next after that doesnt really count because the decision of replacing me and taking me out of the tournament was done earlier even before the tests were conducted, she said.

Nali says she feels shunned and isolated by the Zambian medical team and technical staff as none has taken keen interest to attend to her injury.

I have not been attended to by the medical team. I am just walking like this. And from my own side, if really what they are saying is true because I texted the team doctor to say I want to see the results, I want to send them to my agent, but she has not replied.

What is hurting me is; I have been with the team from 2012 and the technical team knows me and what I can do.

When I was injured the first time, they could have called me to ask to say, okay, is it really an injury or maybe there is just something behind this. Is what we are thinking right to say maybe you are just faking an injury, she lamented.

Nali says it is not the first time a member of the Copper Queens remained with the team for a tournament under her prevailing circumstances.

They never confronted me up to date. They never talked to me about anything. My other concern is, we have had Barbara at the WAFCON, but we stood up for her; we were there for her. We have had Catherine Musonda in 2018, she got injured before the tournament. We had a friendly game against Ivory Coast, we lost 7-0. She got injured before the tournament started and we stayed with her till the tournament ended. And she benefitted from whatsoever was given to us because she was one of us, she says.

Nali wonders whether the Copper Queens technical staff have taken into consideration her welfare, especially that she sacrificed her job at the club, Fatih Vatan Spor, to attend national team duty, a situation that led to the termination of her contract.

I mean the technical team, what they are forgetting is that even if they send me today home, where will I start from? Because in the beginning, they made me lose a contract at my club. I was fired because of their poor communication. They didnt communicate to the team about my traveling when we had friendly games before the official camp for this World Cup – the friendly games that we had in South Korea. They didnt communicate properly with the team so the team got upset and they had to cut off my contract so as we stand I dont have any running contract with any team.

Those are the things also they are forgetting to say if they are to send me back home today maybe because they thought I was faking an injury or maybe I just had my own things, where will I start from? They have announced to the country to say I have been replaced and without talking to me or even coming to me asking how I am feeling.

I feel I am recovering. The way I was, I was failing to completely bend the knee but now at least I am able to bend my knee. I am only having slight pain. When I am seated, when I am walking I am not having any pain, she said.

Asked why she was being treated in this manner, Nali says, with all honesty, I honestly dont know because thats the same question I am asking myself up to now.

However, Nali confirmed allegations the Copper Queens raised issue with their allowances some of which date beyond this period but denied she was the ring leader explaining that as one of the senior players, she felt obliged to query the issue.

On that part, we had a meeting with the team. And we sat the whole lot of us talking about the allowances because FAZ has been owing us money before the World Cup. They have a lot of our allowances so we talked as senior players and then later on everyone on the team we agreed to say we need to speak out.

And the only time I spoke, that was when Barbara was speaking. That time she was speaking on behalf of the team and then she was speaking with the GS. When she finished talking to him; the GS himself is the one who asked, is there anyone else that has anything to say? Thats when I said, yeah, I have something to say. And the things that I said, I did not talk about anything besides what we were discussing as a team and I said it in front of all my teammates. I did not say it elsewhere or maybe just me claiming for the monies, everyone was there and everyone was agreeing because the GS was on the phone call and it was only one or two people to talk on behalf of the team. And on that program, it was Grace, Barbara and me because Grace and Barbara are the captains and me sometimes I only stand out because of if you go back in the record of us youll find that most of the times I would be pointed to speak on behalf of the team. Maybe if Barbara is not there remember at the WAFCON I was not the captain but because I have the ability to stand for the team, they would point out to say okay Hazel can you stand to talk to us about this and this. So thats the only program that was there were money is concerned, she said

Nali confirmed that the players were given about $500 (about K8,500) after the Ireland match which they nearly boycotted.

We decided that we are not going to play the friendly game. We protested the very day of the game in the morning. Thats when we spoke and then they told us that no, we are working on that. We know what we are owing you so you will start receiving your monies anytime from now. No, we had that meeting a day before but we stood to say we are not going to play the game if nothing is done so thats how come on the day of the game they deposited that amount in every account, she said.

Asked if the team was advised on the actual figures of their outstanding balances, Nali responded, no they didnt say it. Even when they deposited that money, they didnt specify what it was for. They gave it to everyone.

Nali complained that her injury situation had been blown out of proportion for reasons best known to those doing so.

I just wanted justice for me because in as much as they might have their own reasons of which I dont know, they are just telling me its because of the injury that I have been left out or maybe sidelined, but for me again I am refusing to that because I am feeling much better than I was and if I had time like to be with the team, I feel I could have recovered and maybe played games here, she said.

Last night, Nali was asked to sign a release form in the presence of the delegation leader and the team doctor which was to be transmitted to FIFA to confirm she will no longer be part of the tournament but she declined to do so.

When contacted, both FAZ General Secretary Reuben Kamanga and Technical Director Lyson Zulus calls went unanswered.

[Augustine Mukoka]

By ZamFoot