Thi­na­sonke cher­ishes dreams of fly­ing solo

Banyana men­tor ad­mires Guardi­ola

Sunday World - - Sport - By Sihle Nde­bele

Banyana Banyana coach De­siree El­lis hardly fin­ishes an in­ter­view with­out men­tion­ing the name Thina.

It’s like Or­lando Pi­rates coach Mi­lutin Sre­do­je­vic in­evitably raves about his deputy, Rhu­lani Mok­wena.

On the other hand, Thi­na­sonke Mbuli – the Banyana as­sis­tant coach af­fec­tion­ately known as Thina – cher­ishes ev­ery op­por­tu­nity to con­tinue work­ing with El­lis.

“I still can’t be­lieve that it’s me [as­sist­ing El­lis]. I am blessed for this op­por­tu­nity. Coach Des [El­lis] is a won­der­ful per­son and our co­op­er­a­tion is ben­e­fi­cial to the coun­try. It warms my heart to hear her prais­ing me for my con­tri­bu­tion to the team,” said Mbuli.

“I was in Taipei [at the World Stu­dents Games, coach­ing the Univer­sity Sports SA (USSA) team] in 2017, when she called to ask me to be her deputy.

“From there, I knew that we would have a spe­cial bond be­cause we did the CAF A coach­ing course to­gether.”

Born in Piet Retief, Mpumalanga, 37 years ago, Thina looks up to Manch­ester City coach Pep Guardi­ola.

Mbuli hopes to ap­ply the Span­ish men­tor’s phi­los­o­phy once she’s the main coach, a task that she’s not rush­ing.

“I like to work with play­ers who are com­fort­able with the ball. My phi­los­o­phy is po­si­tional foot­ball. I as­pire to be like Pep ... I study his meth­ods and when I be­come a head coach, I hope to im­ple­ment his style in my team,” said Mbuli.

“At the mo­ment, I am not pres­suris­ing my­self to be head coach, I’m still learn­ing. But one day I’d like to be in that ca­pac­ity [of head coach].”

Among her achieve­ments, Mbuli be­came SA’s first woman coach to lead the USSA women’s foot­ball team to the semi­fi­nals of the World Stu­dents Games.

She’s also played a piv­otal role in Banyana’s maiden Fifa World Cup qual­i­fi­ca­tion af­ter they fin­ished as run­ners-up in the Africa Women’s Cup of Na­tions in Ghana last year.

Be­fore join­ing the se­nior women’s na­tional team, Mbuli men­tored Sa­sol League club Dur­ban Ladies, which is AmaZulu’s women’s side and had spells at the Univer­sity of KwaZulu-Natal and Dur­ban Univer­sity of Tech­nol­ogy ladies’teams.

/ Syd­ney Mahlangu/Back­pagePix

Banyana as­sis­tant coach Thi­na­sonke Mbuli, left, and head coach De­siree El­lis com­ple­ment each other.

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