New Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis speaks at a press conference at SAFA House on Thursday. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix

JOHANNESBURG – Desiree Ellis says being appointed Banyana Banyana coach on a permanent basis is a dream that has finally become a reality.

The former women’s national team captain was upgraded from being interim to head coach at a press conference on Thursday, ending speculation that her employers were targeting another European for the post.

It had been speculated for some time that the new coach would not be any of the former Banyana players because they simply did not have enough experience at that level.

Following initial suggestions that Ellis wasn’t yet ready to take over the responsibility of leading Banyana – despite winning the regional Cosafa Cup hosted in Zimbabwe last year – the SA Football Association confirmed her as the coach they will put their trust in to take the team to this year’s Africa Cup of Nations in Ghana, the World Cup in France next year and to the Olympic Games in Tokyo two years from now.

“It still sounds unreal. I honestly can’t believe it is really happening. It has always been a dream of mine to be the head coach of Banyana Banyana, nothing comes bigger than this,” said an elated Ellis at the press conference.

“Being in the acting role since 2016 has probably prepared me for the most daunting task of them all in women’s football. I have always believed, and now it is a reality.”

Ellis – the Banyana captain during her playing days – was the assistant to Dutch coach Vera Pauw, who did not renew her contract after the Olympic Games in Rio.

She faces a difficult task of possibly being expected to win the Nations Cup, although finishing third in that tournament will also be enough to take Banyana to the World Cup next year.

Ellis will guide the team at the Cyprus Women’s Cup this month and the flight to the island leaves on Friday.

“Banyana have a very hectic 2018, and this Cyprus Cup could not have come at a better time. Because of the nature of the tournament, we are unable to win it, but will instead use every opportunity to get ready for the upcoming Afcon qualifiers and the tournament proper – which also doubles up as a World Cup qualifier.

“But we are confident we will not disappoint, as I believe we have a very solid team that will do the business,” said Ellis.

“I think when we went to the Olympics, we showed how small the margins are between not getting a (positive) result and getting one.

“We need to take those lessons and make sure it doesn’t happen again. We have competed against countries that have fully-fledged professional leagues.

“That is why we are talking about a national league in 2019, which will raise the standards – where will not just quality for major tournaments, but also compete.”

IOL Sport

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