Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis expecting greater things for current champions
CAPE TOWN - Nine players who were part of Banyana Banyana’s squad that won last year’s 2019 Cosafa Women’s Championship went on to secure contracts to play abroad as full-time professionals.
Now, after Saturday’s 2-1 victory over Botswana to clinch the 2020 title, Banyana coach Desiree Ellis had cause to reflect on this year’s squad. She said many players in the class of 2020 had excelled and have shown that they are ready to make the transition into professional football.
“I have no doubt, my phone will be ringing in the next few days to enquire about players in this group,” said Ellis. “They would have attracted the attention of clubs abroad, and even with their lack of international experience, they are ready technically and tactically.
“Throughout the week, many of our foreign-based players phoned to wish the team well, so there is a strong camaraderie among the country’s leading players.
“When we started out this was an untried group of players and many were making their national team debuts.
“We challenged the group to maintain a level of play, and many exceeded that.
“Some in this squad will now place pressure on players abroad to hold down their place in the national team.
“It has created a selection headache, but it is a good headache.”
Ellis said the joint efforts of Safa and women’s football sponsors Sasol had helped to raise the playing standards in the domestic league.
“The players who had shone in the Sasol League were the ones who were at the forefront of our championship-winning efforts,” said Ellis.
“In the absence of international matches because of the Covid-19 pandemic, players had to rely on play in (the) Sasol League and lower divisions to maintain a level of match fitness.
“It has also been to our advantage that Safa has offered to the host the tournament. All that remained was for us to build on the advantages of playing at home.”
Safa vice president Ria Ledwaba said Banyana had done well even though they were not professionals.
“You will find that our players in the Sasol League are not professionals and that’s why we say this team has done tremendously well to win the Cosafa Championship,” said Ledwaba.
“Many of the players were also drawn from regional leagues, and that says that good work is done at feeder academies around the country.
“It would like to see more Southern African countries participating.
I would also like to see Southern African countries hosting the tournaments so that our (Southern African) teams can benefit from playing away.”
Banyana were also among the individual medal winners after Hildah Magaia was named Player of the Tournament and Sibulele Holweni won the Golden Boot for scoring eight goals.