By winning the Cosafa Cup in September this year, Banyana Banyana has become the pride of the nation. Their superb display was the result of great effort behind the scenes, Sana Jeewa explains.
Years of persistence and untold dedication to establish women’s football at the highest level from the South African Football Association has lead to the momentous achievement. For those who have been involved since the beginning, Banyana Banyana’s progress, is extremely gratifying.
Banyana Banyana interim coach Desiree Ellis has been instrumental in the development of women’s football in South Africa. Ellis was one of the founding members of the national women’s side 24 years ago. She was also its second captain and has now attained the unique accolade of being the first individual (of any gender) to win the Cosafa Cup as both a player and a coach.
A humble individual, she gave full recognition to her team, telling the Daily Vox, “It was never about me. It was a collective effort by the whole technical team, medical team, all the other support staff and most importantly the players.”
“Getting them to perform, making sure everyone was injury free and fresh for all the games so that the players could show their unbelievable never say die attitude, their quality and the team work.”
She said winning the Cosafa cup was a career highlight for the majority of her players; only three members of the team had ever won a major competition before.
A treasured recollection for Ellis during the cup was when the team beat Zambia 5-3 on penalties in the semi-finals after coming back from 3-0 down in regulation time. At 3-0 down, their hopes of qualifying for the final looked remote at best, but belief increased amongst the team as each goal went in.
She compared this achievement to Liverpool’s globally renowned 2005 Champions League Final triumph and felt that her team had shown similar spirit to emerge victorious. She told The Daily Vox: “The lasting memory from the tournament we will take away is the semi-final fight back against Zambia that is something we will never forget as it shows the belief we had as a group.”
Ellis believes in nurturing the team as a fully functioning unit, and that all the staff and players play an essential role. She believes the collective were the reason for South Africa’s ultimate triumph, and not any specific individual. While women’s soccer has received a massive boost with this accolade, the main factors leading to its’ growth began almost a decade ago.
One of the key factors driving the development of women’s soccer in SA has been the establishment of the Sasol Soccer League.
Since 2009, the Sasol Soccer League has allowed women’s soccer to gain more public support. The women’s football league caters for 144 teams from all nine provinces. The league provides an opportunity for 3600 female players to develop their skills and compete in football during the year.
The league culminates in the Sasol League National Championship where the winners from each province compete for the chance to be the Sasol National League Champion.
Banyana Banyana coaches have used this platform to scout for and select the best players for the national team. The league has produced several Banyana Banyana stars. South Africa’s Cosafa Cup Captain Refiloe Jane, has been a regular player for Vaal University of Technology, a prominent team from the Gauteng region.
The 25-year-old midfielder also has the distinction of winning the first ever tournament at which she was captain. On her appointment, Jane’s coach told IOL: “Refiloe is a born leader who has a leadership spark on the field as well.” Having previously captained at club level, Refiloe also holds the distinction of being a Vaal University of Technology Sports Women of the Year in 2013, and has always stood out as a leader amongst her peers.
More recently, Banyana Banyana’s dominant 4-0 friendly win over Burkina Faso showed that the team have depth and could take South African women’s soccer to new heights. The rampant nature of their performance showed that playing for their country, at any level, is worthy of showcasing their best.
From a hardworking and dedicated coach, to a well-rounded and inspirational leader, and committed players and staff, Banyana Banyana have the tools to build on their successes.
Sana Jeewa is a linguistics master’s student at the University of KwaZulu Natal who is passionate about sport. She is a self-proclaimed classical and popular novel aficionado.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect The Daily Vox’s editorial policy.
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