Football is a collective sport driven by efforts from different departments, but often not, one person grabs the attention when a team or club produce either good or bad results. This week Shaq chats to the South African Women’s National Team Head Coach Desiree Elis, the woman behind the success of Banyana-Banyana. She took over the reigns of the women national team Banyana Banyana from the Dutch born, Vera Pauw back in 2006 after the Rio Olympics Games and she has been excelling ever since.

“Watch the ball”; coach Desiree Ellis during one of the many training sessions with her Banyana Banyana squad. Image: Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Image

Born in Salt River, Cape Town; the fifty-eight (58) years old Desiree Elis is a founding member of the South African Women’s National Football. In a media statement issued by the global body Fifa on the 18th of October 2021, Coach Desiree has been named to a 21-member FIFA Technical Advisory Group (TAG) led by Jill Ellis. This group has been tasked to advice and grow women football globally. As a female coach, Desiree was adamant that no man is an island, a handful of women played a role in her career and she will forever be grateful.

Fran Hilton Smith, who is in the technical department at SAFA, pushed her to get the coaching badges and made sure there were administration and coaching courses available for future generations. Other women who added to her success includes the likes of Nomsa Mahlangu and Ria Ledwaba.

“The challenges of coaching a national team is a hard pill to swallow but you get used to the pressure associated with the title, everyone expects results and when they do not come eyebrows are raised” said the coach. After a failed attempt to play a friendly match against the Netherlands women’s national team due to Coronavirus cases in the camp in July this year, Banyana-Banyana played Botswana and Zambia in April instead. The inaugural Aisha Buhari Cup which took place from the 15th – 21st of September 2021 saw Banyana Banyana pull the biggest upset by beating Nigeria 4 – 0 to lift the trophy.

Focused on the task at hand, coach Desiree Ellis during a match for Banyana Banyana as the head coach.

Post the Aisha Buhari Cup, the focus shifted to the COSAFA Cup (28 September – 09th October 2021) almost immediately and Desiree was more worried about the fatigue of playing and that of travelling because it can really take toll on the players and hamper their winning chances. Banyana came 4th in the COSAFA Cup and hard lessons were learned, “as a team you do not go into the pitch wanting to lose the match deliberately, you would want to win but I do not think any team has gone through unbeaten” said Desiree. The national team went on to hammer Mozambique in the African Women’s Cup of Nations(AWCON) qualifier and coach Desiree was full of praise for her group of players, “We had a week off where we could rest and recharge” she explained.

Stay tuned on our next feature where we will publish the second and last part of this interview.


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