Safa’s decision to appoint Desiree Ellis as permanent Banyana Banyana coach, shouldn’t have taken 18 months. Before Banyana Banyana took to Cameroon for the Afcon in 2016, the mother body was already speaking about getting a replacement for Vera Pauw (who had vacated the job after the Rio Olympics) but it took another year before the former captain was given the baton. The amount of time between Ellis taking over as interim coach and giving her the permanent post indicates that Safa didn’t really have faith in her.
In 2014 when Pauw was appointed, Safa president, Danny Jordaan said from then on, only women would coach female national teams. It is however baffling that while Banyana are currently campaigning in the Cyprus Cup, Ellis is assisted by Molefi Ntseki and Thabo Senong. Both Senong and Ntseki are national team coaches for Amajimbos and Amajita. Maude Khumalo and Thinasonke Mbuli, who assisted Ellis in Cameroon and the Cosafa Cup in Zimbabwe respectively, have been dropped. These appointments further indicate Safa’s doubts in Ellis’ capabilities as a coach.
This uncertainty over the head coach position would have destabilised Banyana ahead of what will be a crucial year during which South Africa’s senior national women’s team must qualify for the 2019 World Cup and 2018 Women’s Afcon. After missing out on the 2015 World Cup, most players are eager to qualify for the world showpiece as it’s the only tournament Banyana haven’t played in. Qualifying for France 2019 is one of Ellis’ mandates, something that Pauw never had.
Could Safa be setting Ellis up for failure by giving her a difficult mandate to achieve in a relatively short period of time? Perhaps, but it seems Banyana are hell-bent on making sure that Ellis achieves her mandate to qualify for France 2019. Defender, Bambanani Mbane said they will support Ellis.
“We want to be in the top two (at Afcon), it’s also our goal (as players) to qualify for the World Cup. It’s the only thing we haven’t qualified for,” she said.
Players also realise that their relationship with Ellis has to change a bit as they work towards the Afcon and hopefully the World Cup. Striker, Jermaine Seoposenwe says Ellis has done a good job so far also giving more players a chance to represent the country in the senior team.
“She has brought in a whole lot players, she has broaden the pool and given more players a chance. They have challenged other players that have been here. We appreciate the fact that we can relate to her,” added Seoposenwe.