Last week Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis retained her title as the top woman coach on the African continent. This isn’t her first award.
Ellis scooped the 2019 award for leading the women’s team to their first FIFA World Cup. While the team didn’t do as well as expected during the 2019 tournament, it was a momentous moment. While accepting the award, Ellis dedicated the award to all the coaches of women’s football and specifically also to the Banyana players. This was not the first time she stood on the podium.
In 2018, Ellis was also named CAF top woman coach. This was after she led the national team to the finals of the 2018 African Women Cup of Nations. Despite the team losing to Nigeria in the final, Ellis picked up the award for all the work she had put in to guide the team to the final. It was Banyana’s win over Mali in the semi-finals that booked their place in 2019 World Cup.
But Ellis does not just have a prolific career as a coach. She started off as a player.
She played for the first Banyana team
Ellis was part of the first ever Banyana Banyana team. After Nelson Mandela’s release from prison, a unified national women’s team was formed. She was called up to start in the team and was made vice-captain and later captain of the team. It was a memorable debut for Ellis who scored a hat trick during her debut against Swaziland. Ellis played in the team for nine years, hanging up her boots at the age of 39. That was not the end of her journey with Banyana.
Transition from player to coach
In 2016, Ellis was appointed the interim coach of the team after previous coach Vera Pauw resigned. She’d had a previous coaching job at Spurs Ladies. After a successful few months as interim coach, Ellis was given the position of head coach in February 2018. She went to take the team ranked 50th in the world to a second place finish at the Cup of Nations and helped them book a World Cup place.
A long list of awards
Ellis might have just won the top coach honours in Africa but that’s not the only award she has won. Along with her 2018 and 2019 CAF women coach of the year awards, Ellis has won many others. In 1980, she won the Mobil Achievement Award by WP Sportswriters. She won in the South African Football Association (Safa) Women’s Inter-provincials for three years in 1986, 1989 and 1992. In 1989 and 1993, she was the Foschini Cape Woman Football Player of the Year. Ellis has also won the 2000 Sanlam Sports Star of the Month (November), and the 2001 Safa Special Recognition Gold Award.
In 2001 Ellis got the presidential nod by winning the Presidential Sports Silver Award.
As the national team prepares for the coming year, and all the opponents and teams they will face they are in good hands. With Ellis as the coach, the team can only go from strength to strength.