Banyana Banyana coach Desiree Ellis, left, captain Janine van Wyk and goalkeeper Andile Dlamini having some fun during training. Photo: Sydney Mahlangu/BackpagePix
While Banyana Banyana will rewrite the history books if they beat Nigeria in the Women’s Africa Cup of Nations final at the Accra Stadium in Ghana today (6pm kick-off), coach Desiree Ellis is further hoping to make amends for the regret and despair of 18 years ago.

The South African national women’s team have participated in the continental showpiece 12 times but they have yet to claim the gold medal, while they’ve already succumbed in four final appearances.

Prior to today’s final, they’ve already met Nigeria’s Super Falcons on three occasions. Current Banyana coach Ellis captained her team in 2002 to the runners-up spot against the Super Falcons on home-soil. After being 2-0 down after the 73rd minute, Ellis and her companions had to endure a further embarrassment as their supporters resorted to hooliganism towards the Super Falcons and officials and the match was eventually awarded to the latter.

Although her nation was in disgrace, Ellis was nominated for Caf Woman Footballer of the Year  which has only been won by her squad member Noko Matlou in the country’s history.

In the 2016 continental showpiece, Ellis, as an interim coach, lost to the Super Falcons in the semi-finals. And their chances of making the top three, and qualifying for the World Cup, were dashed by Ghana in the third place play-off.

However, it’s been a dream Awcon for the 55-year-old coach in Ghana. She opened the campaign with a 1-0 win against arch-rivals, Nigeria, which was a huge morale booster for them.

That initial momentum carried them into the 2019 World Cup in France after they hammered Mali in the semi-finals - a feat that they’ve never achieved before.

Although the Salt River-born coach is hoping to join the elite and become one of the African-born coaches to win the continental showpiece, she’ll have to do so without the services of vice-captain Refiloe Jane.

Jane had to return to club duty with Australian outfit Canberra United, however Ellis is still confident that her troops can still do the job.

In Ellis’ squad, striker Jermaine Seoposenwe and goalkeeper Kaylin Swart were part of the team that qualified for the Under-17 World Cup that was held in Trinidad and Tobago in 2010.

Speaking at the official final press conference yesterday, Seoposenwe admitted that collective effort is what has propelled them this far in the tournament, hence they are ready for the Super Falcons.

“We’ve come together as a unit, and we’ve been united in everything that we’ve done,” Seoposenwe said. “The final is an opportunity for everyone to do something that we’ve never done before.

“We are exciting but since we’ve beat them in the opener; it will be a very different game altogether.

“It’s been a long tournament for all of us, so fatigue is there but it will come down to whether South Africa has the will to win.

“I fully believe in my team.”

@MihlaliBaleka


Saturday Star

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