Photo courtesy Natalie Levy

Pioneering across nations

Natalie Levy works with Zambian national team

By Maddie Lee /// Staff Writer

The Under-17 Women’s World Cup was held in Costa Rica this March, and LC soccer player Natalie Levy (’14) was flown in to be with the Zambian soccer association. She was part of the delegation that walked in the opening ceremony and she stayed to watch Zambia’s first game against Italy.

Levy’s involvement in Zambian soccer stared three summers ago when she visited her father, Geoffrey Levy, who was working in Zambia at the time. While there, she spent much of her time roaming between pickup games distributing new balls to children playing on make-shift dirt fields.

“They were playing with these soccer balls they had made out of plastic bags and stuff and I would come and bring them brand new soccer balls,” Levy said. “And we would play literally from around four until it got dark, and at the end of the day the soccer ball, which had once been brand new, would be all chewed up.”

Levy and her father also brought resources to orphanages and schools in the area, distributing clothes, school supplies and playing soccer. Because of the language barrier, Levy’s best tool for communication was her sport, which needed no translation.

It quickly became apparent to Levy that while the Zambian national team was one of the best men’s teams in Africa, the women’s national team was not nearly as well funded or supported.

Levy and her father turned their attention to the women’s team, working with former head coach Elana Phiri to improve the program and putting pressure on Nike to provide uniforms and equipment.

When the U-17 Zambian women’s team qualified for the world cup this year, the Levys were called upon to help the team prepare for Costa Rica.

Geoffrey Levy was able to arrange the Zambian team’s trip to the US in which they played in a series of training sessions and friendlies, including games against USF and UC Berkeley.

This gave Levy the chance to get to know the team, show the Zambian girls around California and even play against them with her former club team.

“These girls are super talented,” Levy said. “The Zambian girls are scrappy and they’re physical and they have really good foot skills.”

In Costa Rica, Zambia won one game in their group, a two to one victory over the host country, dropping one to both Italy and Venezuela. They therefore did not move on to the second stage, but the experience was invaluable.

“They’re young,” Levy said, explaining that some of the Zambian girls were thirteen and fourteen years old, while other teams carry a majority of fifteen and sixteen year olds. “Even just one year of age,” she said, “makes a difference at that age.”

With the U-17 Women’s World Cup over, the Levys are now working on bringing Brandy Chastain, Mia Hamm, Michelle Akers and others to Africa to put on clinics and work with the national team. They also continue to support Zambian orphanages and schools.

 

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