Banyana Banyana coach De­siree El­lis

Banyana Banyana in­terim coach De­siree El­lis is the first South African to win the Cosafa Cham­pi­onship as a player and a coach

DRUM - - Contents - BY KIM ABRA­HAMS

IT WASN’T too much of a sur­prise for Banyana Banyana in­terim coach De­siree El­lis when her team re­cently clinched the 2017 Cosafa Women’s Cham­pi­onship. Af­ter all, they won it in 2002, 2006 and 2008 and fin­ished sec­ond in 2011. But the idea of mak­ing his­tory in a sport she’s played since the day she could walk was unimag­in­able for De­siree (54) – she’s now the first South African to win the cham­pi­onship as a player and as a coach.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think this could hap­pen to me,” she tells us at her home in Hanover Park, Cape Town, which she shares with her mom, Natalie (73).

Back in 2002, Banyana tri­umphed over the Zim­bab­wean women’s side with a 2-1 win un­der De­siree’s cap­taincy.

And 15 years later, our ladies did it again – se­cur­ing the ti­tle in the last minute of their match against the Zim­bab­wean team, again win­ning 2-1.

De­siree be­lieves their suc­cess on the field be­gan off it.

“We were well-struc­tured, and this is be­cause the unity within the team was trans­formed onto the pitch,” she says of the match.

DE­SIREE’S road to soc­cer su­per­star­dom be­gan at age 15 when she joined Athlone Celtic, which her par­ents – mom Natalie and her late dad, Ernst – later man­aged af­ter coaches at the club left. She joined Wyn­berg St Johns six years later, but was kicked out af­ter push­ing to have the team’s nick­name changed.

“We were called The Mag­pies, be­cause of the funny-look­ing black-and-white uni­forms we wore. I didn’t like that name very much and wanted it changed. But the club re­fused and I was told to leave.”

In 1987 she joined Joyces United, which later be­came Sa­ban United, and in 1991 she joined Cape Town Spurs as part of the club’s women’s team. Spurs later merged with Seven Stars to form Ajax Cape Town and never took the fe­male team on board. The Spurs women’s group changed their name to Spurs Ladies.

De­siree then set her sights on mak­ing the na­tional women’s team, which she did, and at the age of 30 she rep­re­sented her coun­try for the first time in a match against Swazi­land – where Banyana sma­shed their op­po­nents 14-0. For nine years she con­tin­ued her po­si­tion as mid­fielder un­til 2002, when she bowed out of na­tional soc­cer af­ter 32 caps. She re­turned to Spurs Ladies, where she stayed for three years as a player and even­tu­ally be­came their coach.

De­siree joined Banyana as their in­terim coach in Oc­to­ber last year. De­spite her re­cent his­tory-mak­ing feat and the team’s stel­lar per­for­mance un­der her train­ing, there’s talk De­siree isn’t guar­an­teed the po­si­tion of coach per­ma­nently.

But this doesn’t trou­ble her, she says. “Who­ever takes over from me will re­ceive a team that’s in good shape,” she says as­suredly.

In ad­di­tion to coach­ing, De­siree is an am­bas­sador for the Lau­reus Sport for Good Foun­da­tion in South Africa, a world­wide or­gan­i­sa­tion that fo­cuses on unit­ing peo­ple through sport. She’s also a Spe­cial Olympics am­bas­sador and is in­volved in var­i­ous com­mu­nity-based projects.

“I chose to con­tinue liv­ing in a com­mu­nity like Han­over Park, which is of­ten rid­dled by vi­o­lence and crime, to show kids where you come from doesn’t de­ter­mine what your life will be­come. If I could do it, why can’t you?”

‘Who­ever takes over from me will re­ceive a team that’s in good shape’

ABOVE: De­siree El­lis made her mark in soc­cer as a player and team cap­tain – now she’s also made her mark as in­terim coach of Banyana Banyana. ABOVE RIGHT: With mom Natalie, her num­ber one sup­porter.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from South Africa

© PressReader. All rights reserved.