The Year in Review, 2023: Banyana, Sundowns show sisters are doing it for themselves

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis on stagde after winning the Women's Coach of the Year award during the 2023 Caf Awards.

Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis won the Women's Coach of the Year award during the 2023 Caf Awards. Picture: Nour Aknajja / BackpagePix

Published Dec 25, 2023


Desiree Ellis’ recent coronation as the 2023 CAF Women’s Coach of the Year was indeed befitting, given the year she’s had with Banyana Banyana.

Ellis is a record four-time-winning coach of the year, but the recent award was perhaps more fulfilling than the rest. It was proof that hard work and unfaltering commitment pays off.

Banyana returned to the Fifa World Cup as the reigning African queens, having won their first Wafcon. And that meant that they’d be the focal point for the continent in Australasia.

For a team that was embroiled in a bonus row with Safa days before the showpiece event, the distractions were headline worthy and the pressure to perform immense. But Ellis’ troops proved they are made of stern stuff by not allowing their shortcomings, or inexperience, to hold them back.

South Africa watched in delight as Banyana reached the last 16 for the first time, where they lost to The Netherlands. By then they had touched many lives – both on and off the field – with their tenacity and togetherness.

While that historic feat was rightly celebrated, it also set a high bar: Banyana can no longer take it easy.

Next on their to-do list was progressing to the third round of the 2024 Olympic qualifiers.

Ellis and Co also managed to get that job done by beating the DRC 4-1 on aggregate with a squad mixed with youth and veterans. The 2-0 win in the second leg, especially, proved Ellis’ tactical prowess and the importance of widening the player pool by integrating young blood for the future.

The matches against the Leopards were also the swansong of former captain Janine van Wyk, as she played her last two games for Banyana to become the highest capped international player in Africa with 185.


A lot of Banyana’s success would not have been possible without contributions to the team from all quarters. A most notable contributor has been Mamelodi Sundowns Ladies, who earlier this year won the CAF Women’s Champions League for the second time in three years.

Sundowns have also been dominant in the domestic Super League, winning it a record four times under coach Jerry Tshabalala.

Before the World Cup, Safa appointed Romaney Pinnock as the head of women’s football, with her roles including getting sponsors for Banyana. During her stint, Shield joined forces with Banyana, supporting Sasol, which has been Banyana’s backbone for many years.

Pinnock still has a long way to go before she can change the face of women’s football, but she is happy with what she has done so far.

“I have only been here for five months,” Pinnock told Independent Media earlier this year, “so I won’t look back on a year but the team has done incredible well.

“It’s been an interesting few months. There’s still a lot to do. I’ve spent a lot of time at my desk trying to develop a strategy and create a new project.”

While Pinnock is “positive for 2024” and beyond, the mother body could still have done better to ensure the year was a success all-round.

The decision to withdraw their bid for the 2027 Fifa Women’s World Cup caught many by surprise. Reports surfaced that Safa pulled out after it didn’t get government guarantees.

But it’s no use dwelling on what could have been.

Instead, Banyana must be complimented for all they’ve achieved this year. The top is not for people who are complacent, though, and Ellis will know that she has to double her efforts next year to return to the CAF podium.