The most successful women’s soccer coach in South Africa, Desiree Ellis, recently launched a book about her life.
She has walked a remarkable journey and has been associated with Banyana Banyana, the South African women’s national football team, for 30 years – initially making her mark as a player (1993–2002), before transitioning to coaching.
Magic: Desiree Ellis from Salt River to the 2023 World Cup, written by sports journalist Luke Alfred, takes readers on the journey of Ellis’ early days playing soccer on the streets of Salt River to her illustrious career as a professional footballer and coach.
Growing up, Ellis would play soccer with boys and her cousins because there were no women’s clubs back then.
“Desiree’s inspiring football journey began many years before on the streets of Salt River in Cape Town where she developed the strength and skills that earned her the nickname ‘Magic’ on the field” – reads the book’s synopsis.
Ellis got her big break in 1978 with Athlone Celtic and went on to play for a number of local teams, including Spurs Ladies.
She featured in the South African national women’s team between 1993 and 2002.
“When Desiree’s talent and dedication saw her become a serious contender at league and then provincial level, and finally gave her a chance to play with and against the world’s best, there was no stopping her.
“As South Africa emerged from sporting exile after the dark days of apartheid and stepped up to the international stage, Desiree proved to everyone who believed in her that dreams can come true,” reads the book.
Ellis’ story has inspired many girls and women around the world.
Taking the experience of 32 caps, including captaining the team when South Africa won the inaugural Cosafa Women’s Cup in 2002, she went on to become the most successful women’s coach in South Africa.
After a stint as assistant coach to Vera Pauw, Desiree was officially appointed as head coach in 2018 and continued adding to her outstanding CV. A high point came in 2022 when she coached Banyana Banyana to the Wafcon title in Morocco.
The win also earned the team automatic qualification for the 2023 Fifa Women’s World Cup.
But Ellis’ inspiring football journey began many years before on the streets of Salt River in Cape Town where she developed the strength and skills that earned her the nickname ‘Magic’ on the field.
Back then soccer boots were only dreamed of and it was her Bata Toughees school shoes that suffered the wear and tear, often to the despair of her hardworking parents
In the early days of the Athlone Celtic women’s side, it was a family affair: (Uncle) Eddie took on the role of coach, (Mom) Natalie’s seamstress skills saw them all kitted out, and (Dad) Ernest handled everything else, from transport to scheduling games.
The book tells you where she has come from and shows you the path she has taken. Layered in 23 chapters, the book lets us in on her coaching philosophy, her reflections on her most challenging years in women’s football and more.
Magic: Desiree Ellis from Salt River to the 2023 World Cup is published by Pan Macmillan and is available at all major bookstores.