Zambia star Kundananji joins Bay FC from Madrid

NWSL expansion side Bay FC have completed the signing of Zambia striker Racheal Kundananji from Madrid CFF, the club announced on Tuesday, with sources telling ESPN the deal is worth a women’s world record €735,000 ($787,600).

The Equalizer was the first to report the record fee, which easily surpasses the previous record set by Chelsea last month when they signed Mayra Ramírez from Levante in a deal in the region of €450,000 with a further potential €50,000 in add-ons.

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Kundananji, 23, joins on a contract until 2027 with an option to extend through to 2028, from Madrid CFF, where she scored 33 goals in 43 Liga F games. Previously, she played for Eibar and Kazakhstan’s BIIK Kazygurt.

She will make up a highly anticipated attacking lineup at Bay FC, joining less than two weeks after Nigeria’s Asisat Oshoala arrived from Barcelona.

Kundananji is one of the most prolific strikers in women’s football and even outscored Oshoala last season in Spain, with 25 goals to the Super Falcons hero’s 21. However, Kundananji has added versatility and often plays on the wing for Zambia to accommodate fellow star Barbra Banda.

“For me, I can play any position as long as I’m given that task to play in that position,” Kundananji told ESPN. “For the national team, we have so many strikers and so few wingers who are strong, so that is why I play on the wing — but I’m a striker.”

When asked if she knew what Bay FC’s plan was for her, given that Oshoala is also in the squad, she said: “Not yet, but I’m planning to [find out]. As long as I’m with the team, no problem. I can play any position.”

Big clubs have been circling Kundananji for some time due to her form for Madrid and Zambia, but when the newly formed expansion side from the San Francisco Bay Area came calling, it was love at first sight.

“I don’t know how, I just fell in love with the team, and it just came as a surprise … There were so many teams that have come my way, but for this team, it was so different,” Kundananji said.

Ghanaian forward Princess Marfo is another African player at Bay FC, while Malawi’s Temwa Chawinga (Kansas City Current) and South Africa’s Linda Motlhalo (Racing Louisville) recently joined NWSL clubs.

“I don’t know about them (other African NWSL players), but for me, I just want to have a new experience and it’s been my dream to do it in the United States of America,” she said. “I just fell in love with the team, and I would love to achieve more goals with Bay FC.”

Kundananji revealed that when she first set her sights on living in the U.S., she did not even realize it was possible for her to have a career in soccer.

“I loved football growing up — sometimes, I would skip school just to play football,” she said. “But for me, it wasn’t a career. It was just fun because I loved football.

“I came to realize it’s my career, I can say at the end of 2016 [or] 2017. That’s when I realized, because by then I didn’t know that there were women’s teams and I didn’t follow women’s football. I was following men’s football … I loved training with men, even when I started playing women’s football.”

Although Kundananji was initially skeptical about playing with fellow women, she began asking questions of her peers who had played in the U.S. Soon, she realized that while there were few women on the planet who could stop her with a ball at her feet, the NWSL would be a true test.

“With what they were telling me, I started thinking: ‘I have to go there and play in the league.’ I’ve been told about the league so many times,” Kundananji recalled.

Kundananji will likely join her new team after Zambia’s February Olympic qualifying doubleheader against Ghana. Bay FC will kick off their first-ever NWSL season against Angel City in a California derby at BMO Stadium on March 16.

Information from ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle and Shwetha Surendran contributed to this story.

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