Thinasonke cherishes dreams of flying solo
Banyana mentor admires Guardiola
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.
Banyana assistant coach Thinasonke Mbuli, left, and head coach Desiree Ellis complement each other.