The band burst onto the international scene by recording back-to-back hat tricks against the Netherlands and China at the Olympics in Tokyo. It was Zambia’s first appearance in women’s soccer at the World Cup or Olympics, and Banda’s second hat-trick led to a 4-4 draw against China.
The International Olympic Committee and FIFA have different eligibility standards for gender reassignment, hence Banda’s appearance in the Olympics, but not in the Cup of Nations.
FIFA’s gender verification policy, which dates back to May 2011, dictates that “androgenic hormones have performance-enhancing effects” and therefore “gender reassignment is of particular importance.” The public document does not specify a specific testosterone threshold.
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FIFA is in the process of updating its 2011 policy, according to a report from Reuters last month. A FIFA spokesman told Reuters that the organization “is reviewing its gender eligibility rules in consultation with expert stakeholders.”
Andrew Kamanga, the president of the Zambian Football Federation, is reportedly in Morocco during the Cup of Nations and is working with the CAF to find a solution. Banda also trains in Morocco, but a solution is unlikely before the end of the tournament.
Without Banda, Zambia managed a pointless draw on Sunday against Cameroon and beat Tunisia, 1-0, on Wednesday in Casablanca. The Zambians lead Group B by four points and can win a trip to the knockout stage with a draw or win on Saturday against Togo. Zambia is looking to make its first trip to the World Cup, where the top four teams automatically advance and two more go to the intercontinental finals.
Banda plays for Chinese club Shanghai Shengli, but has been linked with a possible move to Real Madrid.
Gender eligibility requirements have become a prominent topic across international sports in recent years. Last summer, two Namibian sprinters were excluded from the women’s 400 meters at the Tokyo Olympics due to naturally high testosterone levels. South African middle distance runner Caster Semenya, who won gold in the women’s 800 meters in 2012 and 2016, has been facing eligibility issues around testosterone levels for over a decade.
In addition to the IOC and FIFA, the International Swimming, Cycling and Athletics Federations have in recent years announced new gender criteria or plans to revise their policies.